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New PNAS paper finds that clock-target genes in mice livers become clock controlled only when the animals eat at unexpected times.

Schematic drawing showing male figure with food and liver drawing.

The study, led by Professor David Ray, used transgenic mice to probe how ‘clock’ genes are expressed in the liver.

Professor Ray, who worked with colleagues at the University of Manchester as well as OCDEM on this study, said, “We found that an enormous number of genes were potential clock targets, but that under conditions of healthy eating most were in fact not affected by the clock.  This was a surprising finding, and led us to ask why?”

Previous work has suggested that the circadian clock protein REVERBalpha is a key regulator of liver metabolism, and that this action might regulate body-clock related changes in how fat is synthesised and stored. But the research team instead found that liver clock genes were not driving body-clock driven rhythmic processes under normal conditions.

Instead, potential clock target genes only became clock controlled when the mice ate at unexpected times, similar to what might happen when people eat late at night, or during night shift work. 


We think that the clock in the liver serves to help smooth out the impact of irregular, or mistimed eating, so minimising the adverse impact on the rest of the body,
- Professor David Ray

Read the full paper, and an article about the findings in The Conversation

 Read more about Professor Ray’s work.


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