Rhythmic changes in colonic motility are regulated by period genes

Willemijntje A. Hoogerwerf, Vahakn B. Shahinian, Germaine Cornélissen, Franz Halberg, Jonathon Bostwick, John Timm, Paul A. Bartell, Vincent M. Cassone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Human bowel movements usually occur during the day and seldom during the night, suggesting a role for a biological clock in the regulation of colonic motility. Research has unveiled molecular and physiological mechanisms for biological clock function in the brain; less is known about peripheral rhythmicity. This study aimed to determine whether clock genes such as period 1 (per1) and period2 (per2) modulate rhythmic changes in colonic motility. Organ bath studies, intracolonic pressure measurements, and stool studies were used to examine measures of colonic motility in wild-type and per1per2 double-knockout mice. To further examine the mechanism underlying rhythmic changes in circular muscle contractility, additional studies were completed in neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) knockout mice. Intracolonic pressure changes and stool output in vivo, and colonic circular muscle contractility ex vivo, are rhythmic with greatest activity at the start of night in nocturnal wild-type mice. In contrast, rhythmicity in these measures was absent in per1per2 double-knockout mice. Rhythmicity was also abolished in colonic circular muscle contractility of wild-type mice in the presence of Nω-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester and in nNOS knockout mice. These findings suggest that rhythms in colonic motility are regulated by both clock genes and a nNOS-mediated inhibitory process and suggest a connection between these two mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)G143-G150
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2010


  • Biological rhythms
  • Circadian
  • Clock genes
  • nNOS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Physiology (medical)


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