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Sleep loss reduces the DNA-binding of BMAL1, CLOCK, and NPAS2 to specific clock genes in the mouse cerebral cortex.
We have previously demonstrated that clock genes contribute to the homeostatic aspect of sleep regulation. Indeed, mutations in some clock genes modify the markers of sleep homeostasis and an increase in homeostatic sleep drive alters clock gene expression in the forebrain. Here, we investigate a possible mechanism by which sleep deprivation (SD) could alter clock gene expression by quantifying DNA-binding of the core-clock transcription factors CLOCK, NPAS2, and BMAL1 to the cis-regulatory sequences of target clock genes in mice. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP), we first showed that, as reported for the liver, DNA-binding of CLOCK and BMAL1 to target clock genes changes in function of time-of-day in the cerebral cortex. Tissue extracts were collected at ZT0 (light onset), -6, -12, and -18, and DNA enrichment of E-box or E'-box containing sequences was measured by qPCR. CLOCK and BMAL1 binding to Cry1, Dbp, Per1, and Per2 depended on time-of-day, with maximum values reached at around ZT6. We then observed that SD, performed between ZT0 and -6, significantly decreased DNA-binding of CLOCK and BMAL1 to Dbp, consistent with the observed decrease in Dbp mRNA levels after SD. The DNA-binding of NPAS2 and BMAL1 to Per2 was also decreased by SD, although SD is known to increase Per2 expression in the cortex. DNA-binding to Per1 and Cry1 was not affected by SD. Our results show that the sleep-wake history can affect the clock molecular machinery directly at the level of chromatin binding thereby altering the cortical expression of Dbp and Per2 and likely other targets. Although the precise dynamics of the relationship between DNA-binding and mRNA expression, especially for Per2, remains elusive, the results also suggest that part of the reported circadian changes in DNA-binding of core clock components in tissues peripheral to the suprachiasmatic nuclei could, in fact, be sleep-wake driven.
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