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An emerging role for the circadian clock in autophagy and lysosome function has opened new avenues for exploration in the field of neurodegeneration. The daily rhythms of circadian clock proteins may coordinate gene expression programs involved not only in daily rhythms but in many cellular processes. In the brain, astrocytes are critical for sensing and responding to extracellular cues to support neurons. The core clock protein BMAL1 serves as the primary positive circadian transcriptional regulator and its depletion in astrocytes not only disrupts circadian function but also leads to a unique cell-autonomous activation phenotype. We report here that astrocyte-specific deletion of Bmal1 influences endolysosome function, autophagy, and protein degradation dynamics. In vitro, Bmal1-deficient astrocytes exhibit increased endocytosis, lysosome-dependent protein cleavage, and accumulation of LAMP1- and RAB7-positive organelles. In vivo, astrocyte-specific Bmal1 knockout (aKO) brains show accumulation of autophagosome-like structures within astrocytes by electron microscopy. Transcriptional analysis of isolated astrocytes from young and aged Bmal1 aKO mice indicates broad dysregulation of pathways involved in lysosome function which occur independently of TFEB activation. Since a clear link has been established between neurodegeneration and endolysosome dysfunction over the course of aging, this work implicates BMAL1 as a key regulator of these crucial astrocyte functions in health and disease.


Celia A McKee, Alexander J Polino, Melvin W King, Erik S Musiek. Circadian clock protein BMAL1 broadly influences autophagy and endolysosomal function in astrocytes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2023 May 16;120(20):e2220551120

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PMID: 37155839

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