Mouse Study Unveils New Way to Control Circadian Rhythms

A new study has found that a certain protein helps regulate the internal clock of mice, a finding that eventually may aid in the treatment of a number of disorders.

For the study, published in Nature Communications, a research team led by Thomas Burris, Ph.D., chair of pharmacological and physiological science at the university, examined compounds that target a protein called REV-ERB, which appears to play a key role in regulating mammals’ internal clocks.

“It has been suggested that REV-ERB is a core component of our clock,” said Burris. “Mice without it are arrhythmic. This study demonstrated that when we give mice a synthetic compound that turns REV-ERB on, it altered their circadian rhythm.”

The researchers discovered that REV-ERB increases wakefulness, while reducing REM and slow-wave sleep. Notably, it also decreases anxiety, they found.

They note this is unusual. Drugs that increase wakefulness usually also increase anxiety, while drugs that decrease anxiety also decrease arousal.

The REV-ERB protein, on the other hand, appears to target the clock in a way that is distinct from these common pathways, according to the researchers. Furthermore, it appears to be associated with a suppression of reward-seeking behavior, the study found.

Drug addiction has a circadian component and mice with mutations in genes that affect internal clocks have altered responsiveness to the reward associated with cocaine, morphine and alcohol, according to Burris. He speculates that REV-ERB drugs may be used to help in the treatment of addiction.

Source: Saint Louis University
Proteins that regulate circadian rhythm photo by shutterstock.