Gear of the inner clock is made of zinc
Interaction of proteins and genes influences the internal clock
Zinc has a significant impact on the internal clock. This is what scientists from the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz found out. Thus, important molecular bonds can not be achieved if the trace element is missing. As a result, the internal clock gets out of its daily rhythm. Their findings were published in the current issue of the journal „Cell“.
Clock proteins affect the internal clock
In regulating the daily rhythm, zinc is an indispensable trace element. If it is missing, certain molecular interactions can no longer take place. One example is long-haul flights to other time zones or sleepless nights that mess up our internal clock. For the internal clock to function, proteins and specific target genes must work together optimally. Similar to a mechanical movement, the individual components interlock perfectly. So-called clock proteins bind to each other at very specific times and then in turn activate genes and other proteins. „The result of this interaction is an approximately 24-hour rhythm that controls our sleep-wake behavior as well as many other hormonal and metabolic processes“, it says in a message from the Charité.
„The basic understanding of the functioning of our internal clock is very important in many areas of life. For example, in the common diseases of cancer and diabetes it is known that the internal clock of the cells is wrongly set. Also, the problems that jetlag or shift work give us are related to the internal clock. With the right adjustment of the clock, the quality of life of those affected can be decisively improved, "explains Professor Achim Kramer from the Chronobiology Department of the Charité.
Zinc acts as a bridge between the proteins of the internal clock
In order to unravel the mechanisms of the internal clock, the scientists analyzed the structure of a complex, the two of the clock proteins, „Period "(PER) and „Cryptochromes "(CRY), in particular at night, using a high-resolution image, which turned out to significantly influence the smooth operation of the inner clockwork, revealing that a small zinc ion serves as a bridge for the stable binding between the two proteins. The researchers concluded that the trace element is likely to be present only under certain physiological conditions, since the binding is not permanent, allowing the internal clock to be influenced by ingestion or other external factors, thereby helping to stabilize the immune system Day rhythm at.
„The results of this work broaden our understanding of how environmental influences affect our internal clock, "says Kramer, who hopes the analysis of the entire structure of the PER / CRY protein complex will help drive the search for new drugs to regulate the internal clock To contribute to the development of new therapeutic approaches. „Perspectively, researchers' findings should help in the development of chronotherapies. Therapeutics are administered at very specific times of the day and thus have a greater effect or lower side effects“, it says in a message.
Picture: Joerg Schaefer