Identification of BMAL1-Regulated circadian genes in mouse liver and their potential association with hepatocellular carcinoma: Gys2 and Upp2 as promising candidates

Hongcong Zhao, Guohao Han, Zhou Jiang, Dengke Gao, Haisen Zhang, Luda Yang, Tiantian Ma, Lei Gao, Aihua Wang, Hsu Wen Chao, Qian Li, Yaping Jin, Huatao Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Identification and functional analysis of key genes regulated by the circadian clock system will provide a comprehensive understanding of the underlying mechanisms through which circadian clock disruption impairs the health of living organisms. The initial phase involved bioinformatics analysis, drawing insights from three RNA-seq datasets (GSE184303, GSE114400, and GSE199061) derived from wild-type mouse liver tissues, which encompassed six distinct time points across a day. As expected, 536 overlapping genes exhibiting rhythmic expression patterns were identified. By intersecting these genes with differentially expressed genes (DEGs) originating from liver RNA-seq data at two representative time points (circadian time, CT: CT2 and CT14) in global Bmal1 knockout mice (Bmal1−/−), hepatocyte-specific Bmal1 knockout mice (L-Bmal1−/−), and their corresponding control groups, 80 genes potentially regulated by BMAL1 (referred to as BMAL1-regulated genes, BRGs) were identified. These genes were significantly enriched in glycolipid metabolism, immune response, and tumorigenesis pathways. Eight BRGs (Nr1d1, Cry1, Gys2, Homer2, Serpina6, Slc2a2, Nmrk1, and Upp2) were selected to validate their expression patterns in both control and L-Bmal1−/− mice livers over 24 h. Real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction results demonstrated a comprehensive loss of rhythmic expression patterns in the eight selected BRGs in L-Bmal1−/− mice, in contrast to the discernible rhythmic patterns observed in the livers of control mice. Additionally, significant reductions in the expression levels of these selected BRGs, excluding Cry1, were also observed in L-Bmal1−/− mice livers. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP)-seq (GSE13505 and GSE39860) and JASPAR analyses validated the rhythmic binding of BMAL1 to the promoter and intron regions of these genes. Moreover, the progression of conditions, from basic steatosis to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and eventual malignancy, demonstrated a continuous gradual decline in Bmal1 transcripts in the human liver. Combining the aforementioned BRGs with DEGs derived from human liver cancer datasets identified Gys2 and Upp2 as potential node genes bridging the circadian clock system and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). In addition, CCK8 and wound healing assays demonstrated that the overexpression of human GYS2 and UPP2 proteins inhibited the proliferation and migration of HepG2 cells, accompanied by elevated expression of p53, a tumor suppressor protein. In summary, this study systematically identified rhythmic genes in the mouse liver, and a subset of circadian genes potentially regulated by BMAL1. Two circadian genes, Gys2 and Upp2, have been proposed and validated as potential candidates for advancing the prevention and treatment of HCC.

Original languageEnglish
Article number149422
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Publication statusPublished - Feb 12 2024


  • BMAL1
  • Circadian clock
  • Liver disease
  • Rhythmic genes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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