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J Biol Rhythms. 2012 Oct;27(5):339-52.

Cellular circadian clocks in mood disorders.

Author information

  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System, San Diego, CA, USA.

Abstract

Bipolar disorder (BD) and major depressive disorder (MDD) are heritable neuropsychiatric disorders associated with disrupted circadian rhythms. The hypothesis that circadian clock dysfunction plays a causal role in these disorders has endured for decades but has been difficult to test and remains controversial. In the meantime, the discovery of clock genes and cellular clocks has revolutionized our understanding of circadian timing. Cellular circadian clocks are located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), the brain's primary circadian pacemaker, but also throughout the brain and peripheral tissues. In BD and MDD patients, defects have been found in SCN-dependent rhythms of body temperature and melatonin release. However, these are imperfect and indirect indicators of SCN function. Moreover, the SCN may not be particularly relevant to mood regulation, whereas the lateral habenula, ventral tegmentum, and hippocampus, which also contain cellular clocks, have established roles in this regard. Dysfunction in these non-SCN clocks could contribute directly to the pathophysiology of BD/MDD. We hypothesize that circadian clock dysfunction in non-SCN clocks is a trait marker of mood disorders, encoded by pathological genetic variants. Because network features of the SCN render it uniquely resistant to perturbation, previous studies of SCN outputs in mood disorders patients may have failed to detect genetic defects affecting non-SCN clocks, which include not only mood-regulating neurons in the brain but also peripheral cells accessible in human subjects. Therefore, reporters of rhythmic clock gene expression in cells from patients or mouse models could provide a direct assay of the molecular gears of the clock, in cellular clocks that are likely to be more representative than the SCN of mood-regulating neurons in patients. This approach, informed by the new insights and tools of modern chronobiology, will allow a more definitive test of the role of cellular circadian clocks in mood disorders.

PMID:
23010657
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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