SEP 04, 2017 1:30 PM PDT

How our Gut Microbiome, Daily Clock, & Metabolism are Connected

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

The bacteria we carry in our guts play a critical role in our well-being. Many things can exert an influence on that microbial community, called the gut microbiome, like our diet, medications, and even the hours we keep. Evidence has indicated that changes in the circadian clock can change things in our physiology, including the gut microbiome. New research has identified a gene that plays an important role in the interplay between metabolism and the light cycle of day and night.

Shift workers are often filling critical positions, but can face increased health risk. In this photo, Hospital Corpsman Wade Henry gives a passdown to the night shift in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) aboard USNS Comfort (T-AH 20). / Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class Shane T. McCoy.

Reporting in Science, researchers led by Yuhao Wang at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas have reported new data that could help explain why disrupting the circadian clock, and subsequent perturbations in the microbiome can cause metabolic disease.

The investigators found that certain molecules that are produced by microbes in the gut were able to affect the expression of the NFIL3 gene, which cycles according to our circadian clock. NFIL3 can influence a metabolic pathway that is also dependent on the time of day, and which controls how intestinal cells absorb fats.

People that work at night or who frequently travel internationally have been found to be at higher risk for diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. There is also evidence that the use of artificial light and long work hours have contributed to the rise in metabolic disease seen in the industrialized world. While inactivity and diet are major factors, there seem to be other influences, and there are feedback loops in the system. For example, a high-fat diet can affect the circadian rhythm of the body, which in turn disrupts metabolism.

Researchers are trying to determine whether we can make alterations to the microbiome that can help people restore normality to their metabolism. Knowing more about the mechanisms underlying the process will help advance that goal.

If you’d like to learn more about the complex relationship between the circadian clock, our gut microbiome, and metabolism, check out the awesome short video above from BrainCraft, a project by Vanessa Hill and PBS.

 

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert!, Science, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Circulation Research

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
APR 29, 2021
Immunology
A Week for World Immunization
APR 29, 2021
A Week for World Immunization
The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling our attention to World Immunization Week, which comes in the last week of ...
MAY 13, 2021
Immunology
Salmonella Vaccine Uses "Molecular Telephones" to Talk to the Immune System
MAY 13, 2021
Salmonella Vaccine Uses "Molecular Telephones" to Talk to the Immune System
Salmonella infections are a massive problem—Over 95 million people are affected by this foodborne illness every ye ...
MAY 10, 2021
Coronavirus
Researchers Create a Vaccine For Multiple SARS Viruses, Including COVID-19 & Variants
MAY 10, 2021
Researchers Create a Vaccine For Multiple SARS Viruses, Including COVID-19 & Variants
The pandemic virus SARS-CoV-2 has changed the world in devastating ways, taking hundreds of thousands of lives & new var ...
MAY 14, 2021
Microbiology
An Imaging Tool for Seeing Bacterial Infections in the Body
MAY 14, 2021
An Imaging Tool for Seeing Bacterial Infections in the Body
Researchers have created an imaging agent that will allow scientists and clinicians to visualize a bacterial infection c ...
MAY 21, 2021
Microbiology
The Bubonic Plague May Have Had a Lasting Impact on Humans
MAY 21, 2021
The Bubonic Plague May Have Had a Lasting Impact on Humans
The bubonic plague is caused by a bacterium, Yersinia pestis, which is transmitted by fleas. The bacterium can also caus ...
JUN 01, 2021
Microbiology
A Closer Look at a Potential Bioweapon
JUN 01, 2021
A Closer Look at a Potential Bioweapon
Francisella tularensis is a naturally occurring bacterium found throughout the Northern Hemisphere that is extremely vir ...
Loading Comments...