Potassium is critical to circadian rhythms in human red blood cells

December 12, 2017, University of Surrey
blood
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

An innovative new study from the University of Surrey and Cambridge's MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications, has uncovered the secrets of the circadian rhythms in red blood cells and identified potassium as the key to unravelling the mystery.

Red cells, similar to other cells in the body, have 24hour biological clocks (circadian rhythms) that alter their activity between day and night. Unlike other cells, red blood cells do not have DNA and the 'clock genes' that control rhythms are not present. Until now it has been unknown how such cells are regulated.

Using a novel technique called dielectrophoresis, and new technology developed at the University of Surrey, researchers were able to study the electrochemical properties of human red blood cells, providing an in depth analysis on their workings. Researchers observed a significant variation in potassium content in the cells which corresponded with the circadian rhythm – increased levels during the day followed by a decrease at night.

By changing the amount of potassium the cell receives, the researchers were able to increase and decrease its levels in the cell and observe the effects on their circadian rhythms. The researchers found that higher levels of potassium negatively impacted the circadian rhythm of the cell, whilst lower levels were observed as extending the duration of the cell's perceived "day" by several hours.

Lead investigator Dr Fatima Labeed, Senior Lecturer at the University of Surrey, said:

"This exciting discovery gives us a unique insight into the workings of membrane physiology and its clock mechanism—where ion transport seems to be of particular importance. The study of in red blood can potentially help us understand when and why heart attacks mostly occur during the morning. We will be looking into this further in our forthcoming studies."

Explore further: Time matters: Does our biological clock keep cancer at bay?

More information: Erin A. Henslee et al. Rhythmic potassium transport regulates the circadian clock in human red blood cells, Nature Communications (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-02161-4

Related Stories

Time matters: Does our biological clock keep cancer at bay?

December 7, 2017
Our body has an internal biological or "circadian" clock, which cycles daily and is synchronized with solar time. New research done in mice suggests that it can help suppress cancer. The study, publishing 7 December in the ...

Cells in the retina light the way to treating jet lag

April 18, 2017
Researchers have found a new group of cells in the retina that directly affect the biological clock by sending signals to a region of the brain which regulates our daily (circadian) rhythms. This new understanding of how ...

Delayed meal times reset body clocks

June 1, 2017
The human body runs according to a roughly 24-hour cycle, controlled by a "master" clock in the brain and peripheral clocks in other parts of the body that are synchronized according to external cues, including light. Now, ...

Technology brings new precision to study of circadian rhythm in individual cells

November 2, 2016
An interdisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Georgia has developed a new technology that may help scientists better understand how an individual cell synchronizes its biological clock with other cells.

Synchronized voltage rhythms could maintain the body's clock

April 24, 2017
Cells in the brain's master circadian clock synchronize voltage rhythms despite asynchronous calcium rhythms, which might explain how a tissue-wide rhythm is maintained. 

Researchers show how circadian 'clock' may influence cancer pathway

November 16, 2016
A new study led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) describes an unexpected role for proteins involved with our daily "circadian" clocks in influencing cancer growth.

Recommended for you

Bioprinting bone substitute materials with cell-laden bioinks

August 21, 2018
Bone tissue engineering (BTE) is a developing field in materials science and bioengineering, in which researchers aim to engineer an ideal, bioinspired material to promote assisted bone repair. Since experimental strategies ...

How do muscles know what time it is?

August 21, 2018
How do muscle cells prepare for the particular metabolic challenges of the day? Scientists at Helmholtz Zentrum München and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU), members of the German Center for Diabetes Research ...

High-speed atomic force microscopy reveals clock protein interactions

August 21, 2018
For the first time, researchers have seen how proteins involved in the daily biological clock interact with each other, helping them to further understand a process tied to numerous metabolic and eating disorders, problems ...

I hear what you say! Or do I?

August 21, 2018
Even with an acute sense of hearing adults don't always pick up exactly what someone has said. That's because from childhood to adulthood we rely on vision to understand speech and this can influence our perception of sound.

Could vitamin B3 treat acute kidney injury?

August 20, 2018
Acute kidney injury, an often fatal condition without a specific treatment, affects up to 10 percent of all hospitalized adults in the United States and 30-40 percent in low-income countries. The condition causes a build-up ...

New assay to detect genetic abnormalities in sarcomas outperforms conventional techniques

August 20, 2018
Sarcomas are rare tumors that are often misdiagnosed. Specific recurrent chromosomal rearrangements, known as translocations, can serve as essential diagnostic markers and are found in about 20 percent of sarcomas. Identification ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.