The circadian timing system controls glucose metabolism in a time-of-day dependent manner. In mammals, the circadian timing system consists of the main central clock in the bilateral suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the anterior hypothalamus and subordinate clocks in peripheral tissues. The oscillations produced by these different clocks with a period of approximately 24-h are generated by the transcriptional-translational feedback loops of a set of core clock genes. Glucose homeostasis is one of the daily rhythms controlled by this circadian timing system. The central pacemaker in the SCN controls glucose homeostasis through its neural projections to hypothalamic hubs that are in control of feeding behavior and energy metabolism. Using hormones such as adrenal glucocorticoids and melatonin and the autonomic nervous system, the SCN modulates critical processes such as glucose production and insulin sensitivity. Peripheral clocks in tissues, such as the liver, muscle, and adipose tissue serve to enhance and sustain these SCN signals. In the optimal situation all these clocks are synchronized and aligned with behavior and the environmental light/dark cycle. A negative impact on glucose metabolism becomes apparent when the internal timing system becomes disturbed, also known as circadian desynchrony or circadian misalignment. Circadian desynchrony may occur at several levels, as the mistiming of light exposure or sleep will especially affect the central clock, whereas mistiming of food intake or physical activity will especially involve the peripheral clocks. In this review, we will summarize the literature investigating the impact of circadian desynchrony on glucose metabolism and how it may result in the development of insulin resistance. In addition, we will discuss potential strategies aimed at reinstating circadian synchrony to improve insulin sensitivity and contribute to the prevention of type 2 diabetes.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12956
JournalJournal of pineal research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2024


  • circadian clocks
  • circadian rhythms
  • diabetes mellitus
  • glucose metabolism disorders
  • insulin resistance
  • melatonin
  • suprachiasmatic nucleus

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