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Fasting and time of day independently modulate circadian rhythm relevant gene expression in adipose and skin tissue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article number659
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sep 2018


King's Authors



Intermittent fasting and time-restricted diets are associated with lower risk biomarkers for cardio-metabolic disease. The shared mechanisms underpinning the similar physiological response to these events is not established, but circadian rhythm could be involved. Here we investigated the transcriptional response to fasting in a large cross-sectional study of adipose and skin tissue from healthy volunteers (N=625) controlling for confounders of circadian rhythm: time of day and season. 


We identified 367 genes in adipose and 79 in skin whose expression levels were associated (FDR<5%) with hours of fasting conditionally independent of time of day and season, with 19 genes common to both tissues. Among these genes, we replicated 38 in human, 157 in non-human studies, and 178 are novel associations. Fasting-responsive genes were enriched for regulation of and response to circadian rhythm. We identified 99 genes in adipose and 54 genes in skin whose expression was associated to time of day; these genes were also enriched for circadian rhythm processes. In genes associated to both exposures the effect of time of day was stronger and in an opposite direction to that of hours fasted. We also investigated the relationship between fasting and genetic regulation of gene expression, including GxE eQTL analysis to identify personal responses to fasting. 


This study robustly implicates circadian rhythm genes in the response to hours fasting independently of time of day, seasonality, age and BMI. We identified tissue-shared and tissue-specific differences in the transcriptional response to fasting in a large sample of healthy volunteers.

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