Handbook of experimental pharmacology

Daily regulation of hormone profiles.

PMID 23604480


The highly coordinated output of the hypothalamic biological clock does not only govern the daily rhythm in sleep/wake (or feeding/fasting) behaviour but also has direct control over many aspects of hormone release. In fact, a significant proportion of our current understanding of the circadian clock has its roots in the study of the intimate connections between the hypothalamic clock and multiple endocrine axes. This chapter will focus on the anatomical connections used by the mammalian biological clock to enforce its endogenous rhythmicity on the rest of the body, using a number of different hormone systems as a representative example. Experimental studies have revealed a highly specialised organisation of the connections between the mammalian circadian clock neurons and neuroendocrine as well as pre-autonomic neurons in the hypothalamus. These complex connections ensure a logical coordination between behavioural, endocrine and metabolic functions that will help the organism adjust to the time of day most efficiently. For example, activation of the orexin system by the hypothalamic biological clock at the start of the active phase not only ensures that we wake up on time but also that our glucose metabolism and cardiovascular system are prepared for this increased activity. Nevertheless, it is very likely that the circadian clock present within the endocrine glands plays a significant role as well, for instance, by altering these glands' sensitivity to specific stimuli throughout the day. In this way the net result of the activity of the hypothalamic and peripheral clocks ensures an optimal endocrine adaptation of the metabolism of the organism to its time-structured environment.

Related Materials