Many physiological processes are regulated with a 24h periodicity to anticipate the environmental changes of day to nighttime and vice versa. These 24h regulations, commonly termed circadian rhythms, amongst others control the sleep-wake cycle, locomotor activity and preparation for food availability during the active phase (daytime for humans, 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/dark cycle. Besides morphological changes, also mitochondrial respiration 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.
- Journal Article