Suprachiasmatic Astrocytes Modulate the Circadian Clock in Response to TNF-α

Document Type




Format of Original

9 p.

Publication Date



American Association of Immunologists

Source Publication

The Journal of Immunology

Source ISSN


Original Item ID

doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1300450


The immune and the circadian systems interact in a bidirectional fashion. The master circadian oscillator, located in the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) of the hypothalamus, responds to peripheral and local immune stimuli, such as proinflammatory cytokines and bacterial endotoxin. Astrocytes exert several immune functions in the CNS, and there is growing evidence that points toward a role of these cells in the regulation of circadian rhythms. The aim of this work was to assess the response of SCN astrocytes to immune stimuli, particularly to the proinflammatory cytokine TNF-α. TNF-α applied to cultures of SCN astrocytes from Per2luc knockin mice altered both the phase and amplitude of PER2 expression rhythms, in a phase-dependent manner. Furthermore, conditioned media from SCN astrocyte cultures transiently challenged with TNF-α induced an increase in Per1 expression in NIH 3T3 cells, which was blocked by TNF-α antagonism. In addition, these conditioned media could induce phase shifts in SCN PER2 rhythms and, when administered intracerebroventricularly, induced phase delays in behavioral circadian rhythms and SCN activation in control mice, but not in TNFR-1 mutants. In summary, our results show that TNF-α modulates the molecular clock of SCN astrocytes in vitro, and also that, in response to this molecule, SCN astrocytes can modulate clock gene expression in other cells and tissues, and induce phase shifts in a circadian behavioral output in vivo. These findings suggest a role for astroglial cells in the alteration of circadian timing by immune activation.


The Journal of Immunology, Vol. 191, No. 9 (November 2013): 4656-4664. DOI: 10.4049/jimmunol.1300450.