Researchers from Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin have demonstrated that the body’s carbon monoxide metabolism is highly associated with the circadian clock of the body. Carbon monoxide, a toxic gas, is an endogenous by-product of heme degradation and is also present in cigarette smoke and exhaust fumes. Carbon monoxide production is controlled by the body’s circadian clock and this clock, in turn, is managed by carbon monoxide.
Metabolism and Circadian Clock
A close connection between the body’s circadian clock and metabolism assures that our bodies are favorably adapted to various environments like timing of meals and availability. Cell-based internal clock senses signals from metabolism and makes the appropriate cellular metabolic process adjust according to these signals.
The interruption of one of these regulatory systems disturbs the other; this is evident in diabetes or metabolic syndrome, since the internal clocks are disturbed. A team of researchers led by Prof. Dr. Achim Kramer, who serves as Head of the Chronobiology Research Unit at Charite’s Institute for Medical Immunology, has been analyzing the role of heme in the body’s internal clocks. Heme is a part of various other proteins and functions as a metabolic sensor.
Prof. Kramer explained, “Our research has revealed that toxic gas – carbon monoxide is also a by-product of the heme degradation and plays a major role in maintaining the body’s circadian clock.”
Heme production inside the liver cells can be disturbed by external pharmacological inhibition or genetically blocking the expression of the enzyme heme oxygenase – the enzyme which synthesizes heme. Eventually, the clock is slowed down since the regular internal rhythm is disturbed.
Disruption of this type leads to the deregulation of many other genes, which is also required for important metabolic processes like glucose synthesis. Findings from this study make us understand more about metabolic disorders and the body’s circadian clock. By finding the molecular interactions behind the body’s internal clocks, we can be able to refine therapeutic targets.