Circadian rhythm transcription factor CLOCK regulates the transcriptional activity of the glucocorticoid receptor by acetylating its hinge region lysine cluster: Potential physiological implications

Nancy Nader, George P. Chrousos, Tomoshige Kino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

182 Citations (Scopus)


Glucocorticoids, end products of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, influence functions of virtually all organs and tissues through the glucocorticoid receptor (GR). Circulating levels of glucocorticoids fluctuate naturally in a circadian fashion and regulate the transcriptional activity of GR in target tissues. The basic helix-loop-helix protein CLOCK, a histone acetyltransferase (HAT), and its heterodimer partner BMAL1 are self-oscillating transcription factors that generate circadian rhythms in both the central nervous system and periphery. We found that CLOCK/BMAL1 repressed GR-induced transcriptional activity in a HAT-activity-dependent fashion. In serum-shock-synchronized cells, transactivational activity of GR, accessed by mRNA expression of an endogenous-responsive gene, fluctuated spontaneously in a circadian fashion in reverse phase with CLOCK/BMAL1 mRNA expression. CLOCK and GR interacted with each other physically, and CLOCK suppressed binding of GR to its DNA recognition sequences by acetylating multiple lysine residues located in its hinge region. These findings indicate that CLOCK/BMAL1 functions as a reverse-phase negative regulator of glucocorticoid action in target tissues, possibly by antagonizing biological actions of diurnally fluctuating circulating glucocorticoids. Further, these results suggest that a peripheral target tissue circadian rhythm indirectly influences the functions of every organ and tissue inside the body through modulation of the ubiquitous and diverse actions of glucocorticoids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1572-1583
Number of pages12
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2009



  • Brain-muscle-arnt-like protein 1
  • G6Pase
  • GILZ
  • GREs
  • Histone acetyltransferase
  • Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics

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