A circadian clock in the sinus node mediates day-night rhythms in Hcn4 and heart rate

A. D'Souza*, Y.W. Wang, C. Anderson, A. Bucchi, M. Baruscotti, S. Olieslagers, P. Mesirca, A.B. Johnsen, S. Mastitskaya, H.B. Ni, Y. Zhang, N. Black, C. Cox, S. Wegner, B. Bano-Otalora, C. Petit, E. Gill, S.J.R.J. Logantha, H. Dobrzynski, N. AshtonG. Hart, R. Zhang, H.G. Zhang, E.J. Cartwright, U. Wisloff, M.E. Mangoni, P.A.D. Martins, H.D. Piggins, D. DiFrancesco, M.R. Boyett

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

27 Citations (Web of Science)


BACKGROUND Heart rate follows a diurnal variation, and slow heart rhythms occur primarily at night.OBJECTIVE The lower heart rate during sleep is assumed to be neural in origin, but here we tested whether a day-night difference in intrinsic pacemaking is involved.METHODS In vivo and in vitro electrocardiographic recordings, vagotomy, transgenics, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, Western blotting, immunohistochemistry, patch damp, reporter bioluminescence recordings, and chromatin immunoprecipitation were used.RESULTS The day-night difference in the average heart rate of mice was independent of fluctuations in average locomotor activity and persisted under pharmacological, surgical, and transgenic interruption of autonomic input to the heart. Spontaneous beating rate of isolated (ie, denervated) sinus node (SN) preparations exhibited a day-night rhythm concomitant with rhythmic messenger RNA expression of ion channels including hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated potassium channel 4 (HCN4). In vitro studies demonstrated 24-hour rhythms in the human HCN4 promoter and the corresponding funny current. The day-night heart rate difference in mice was abolished by HCN block, both in vivo and in the isolated SN. Rhythmic expression of canonical circadian dock transcription factors, for example, Brain and muscle ARNT-Like 1 (BMAL1) and Cryptochrome (CRY) was identified in the SN and disruption of the local dock (by cardiomyocyte-specific knockout of Bmall) abolished the day-night difference in Hcn4 and intrinsic heart rate. Chromatin immunoprecipitation revealed specific BMAL1 binding sites on Hcn4, linking the local dock with intrinsic rate control.CONCLUSION The circadian variation in heart rate involves SN local dock-dependent Hcn4 rhythmicity. Data reveal a novel regulator of heart rate and mechanistic insight into bradycardia during sleep.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)801-810
Number of pages10
JournalHeart Rhythm
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2021


  • Bradycardia
  • Circadian rhythm
  • Pacemaking
  • Sinus node
  • Vagus nerve
  • CRY2

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