Disruption of the Circadian Clock in Mice Increases Intestinal Permeability and Promotes Alcohol-Induced Hepatic Pathology and Inflammation

Keith C. Summa, Robin M. Voigt, Christopher B. Forsyth, Maliha Shaikh, Kate Cavanaugh, Yueming Tang, Martha Hotz Vitaterna, Shiwen Song, Fred W. Turek, Ali Keshavarzian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

185 Scopus citations


The circadian clock orchestrates temporal patterns of physiology and behavior relative to the environmental light:dark cycle by generating and organizing transcriptional and biochemical rhythms in cells and tissues throughout the body. Circadian clock genes have been shown to regulate the physiology and function of the gastrointestinal tract. Disruption of the intestinal epithelial barrier enables the translocation of proinflammatory bacterial products, such as endotoxin, across the intestinal wall and into systemic circulation; a process that has been linked to pathologic inflammatory states associated with metabolic, hepatic, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases - many of which are commonly reported in shift workers. Here we report, for the first time, that circadian disorganization, using independent genetic and environmental strategies, increases permeability of the intestinal epithelial barrier (i.e., gut leakiness) in mice. Utilizing chronic alcohol consumption as a well-established model of induced intestinal hyperpermeability, we also found that both genetic and environmental circadian disruption promote alcohol-induced gut leakiness, endotoxemia and steatohepatitis, possibly through a mechanism involving the tight junction protein occludin. Circadian organization thus appears critical for the maintenance of intestinal barrier integrity, especially in the context of injurious agents, such as alcohol. Circadian disruption may therefore represent a previously unrecognized risk factor underlying the susceptibility to or development of alcoholic liver disease, as well as other conditions associated with intestinal hyperpermeability and an endotoxin-triggered inflammatory state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere67102
JournalPloS one
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 18 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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