Circadian rhythms in mitochondrial respiration

    1. Andries Kalsbeek1,3,4
    1. 1Department of Clinical Chemistry, Laboratory of Endocrinology, Academic Medical Center (AMC), University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    2. 2Department of Human Biology and Human Movement Sciences, Maastricht University Medical Center (MUMC), Maastricht, The Netherlands
    3. 3Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Academic Medical Center (AMC), University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    4. 4Hypothalamic Integration Mechanisms Group, Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience (NIN), Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    1. Correspondence should be addressed to A Kalsbeek: a.kalsbeek{at}


    Many physiological processes are regulated with a 24-h periodicity to anticipate the environmental changes of daytime to nighttime and vice versa. These 24-h regulations, commonly termed circadian rhythms, among others control the sleep–wake cycle, locomotor activity and preparation for food availability during the active phase (daytime for humans and nighttime for nocturnal animals). Disturbing circadian rhythms at the organ or whole-body level by social jetlag or shift work, increases the risk to develop chronic metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes mellitus. The molecular basis of this risk is a topic of increasing interest. Mitochondria are essential organelles that produce the majority of energy in eukaryotes by converting lipids and carbohydrates into ATP through oxidative phosphorylation. To adapt to the ever-changing environment, mitochondria are highly dynamic in form and function and a loss of this flexibility is linked to metabolic diseases. Interestingly, recent studies have indicated that changes in mitochondrial morphology (i.e., fusion and fission) as well as generation of new mitochondria are dependent on a viable circadian clock. In addition, fission and fusion processes display diurnal changes that are aligned to the light/darkness cycle. Besides morphological changes, mitochondrial respiration also displays diurnal changes. Disturbing the molecular clock in animal models leads to abrogated mitochondrial rhythmicity and altered respiration. Moreover, mitochondrial-dependent production of reactive oxygen species, which plays a role in cellular signaling, has also been linked to the circadian clock. In this review, we will summarize recent advances in the study of circadian rhythms of mitochondria and how this is linked to the molecular circadian clock.

    • Received 23 December 2017
    • Accepted 29 January 2018
    • Made available online as an Accepted Preprint 29 January 2018

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    1. J Mol Endocrinol 60 R115-R130
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