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The Circadian Clock in White and Brown Adipose Tissue: Mechanistic, Endocrine, and Clinical Aspects


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Obesity is a major risk factor for the development of illnesses, such as insulin resistance and hypertension, and has become a serious public health problem. Mammals have developed a circadian clock located in the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) that responds to the environmental light-dark cycle. Clocks similar to the one located in the SCN are found in peripheral tissues, such as the kidney, liver, and adipose tissue. The circadian clock regulates metabolism and energy homeostasis in peripheral tissues by mediating activity and/or expression of key metabolic enzymes and transport systems. Knockouts or mutations in clock genes that lead to disruption of cellular rhythmicity have provided evidence to the tight link between the circadian clock and metabolism. In addition, key proteins play a dual role in regulating the core clock mechanism, as well as adipose tissue metabolism, and link circadian rhythms with lipogenesis and lipolysis. Adipose tissues are distinguished as white, brown, and beige (or brite), each with unique metabolic characteristics. Recently, the role of the circadian clock in regulating the differentiation into the different adipose tissues has been investigated. In this review, the role of clock proteins and the downstream signaling pathways in white, brown, and brite adipose tissue function and differentiation will be reviewed. In addition, chronodisruption and metabolic disorders and clinical aspects of circadian adiposity will be addressed.