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Nat Commun. 2017 Jan 30;8:14287. doi: 10.1038/ncomms14287.

Cellular mechano-environment regulates the mammary circadian clock.

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Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PT, UK.
Wellcome Centre for Cell-Matrix Research, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PT, UK.


Circadian clocks drive ∼24 h rhythms in tissue physiology. They rely on transcriptional/translational feedback loops driven by interacting networks of clock complexes. However, little is known about how cell-intrinsic circadian clocks sense and respond to their microenvironment. Here, we reveal that the breast epithelial clock is regulated by the mechano-chemical stiffness of the cellular microenvironment in primary cell culture. Moreover, the mammary clock is controlled by the periductal extracellular matrix in vivo, which contributes to a dampened circadian rhythm during ageing. Mechanistically, the tension sensing cell-matrix adhesion molecule, vinculin, and the Rho/ROCK pathway, which transduces signals provided by extracellular stiffness into cells, regulate the activity of the core circadian clock complex. We also show that genetic perturbation, or age-associated disruption of self-sustained clocks, compromises the self-renewal capacity of mammary epithelia. Thus, circadian clocks are mechano-sensitive, providing a potential mechanism to explain how ageing influences their amplitude and function.

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