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Timed daily exercise remodels circadian rhythms in mice

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Clare GuildingORCiD, Dr John Gigg



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Regular exercise is important for physical and mental health. An underexplored and intriguing property of exercise is its actions on the body’s 24 h or circadian rhythms. Molecular clock cells in the brain’s suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) use electrical and chemical signals to orchestrate their activity and convey time of day information to the rest of the brain and body. To date, the long-lasting effects of regular physical exercise on SCN clock cell coordination and communication remain unresolved. Utilizing mouse models in which SCN intercellular neuropeptide signaling is impaired as well as those with intact SCN neurochemical signaling, we examined how daily scheduled voluntary exercise (SVE) influenced behavioral rhythms and SCN molecular and neuronal activities. We show that in mice with disrupted neuropeptide signaling, SVE promotes SCN clock cell synchrony and robust 24 h rhythms in behavior. Interestingly, in both intact and neuropeptide signaling deficient animals, SVE reduces SCN neural activity and alters GABAergic signaling. These findings illustrate the potential utility of regular exercise as a long-lasting and effective non-invasive intervention in the elderly or mentally ill where circadian rhythms can be blunted and poorly aligned to the external world.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hughes ATL, Samuels RE, Baño-Otálora B, Belle MDC, Wegner S, Guilding C, Northeast RC, Loudon ASI, Gigg J, Piggins HD

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Communications Biology

Year: 2021

Volume: 4

Online publication date: 18/06/2021

Acceptance date: 18/05/2021

Date deposited: 18/06/2021

ISSN (electronic): 2399-3642

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1038/s42003-021-02239-2


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Funder referenceFunder name
Wellcome Trust (107851/Z/15/Z)
Wellcome Trust (MA086352)