"It has been suggested that REV-ERB is a core component of our clock," said Burris. "Mice without it are arrhythmic. This study demonstrated that when we give mice a synthetic compound that turns REV-ERB on, it altered their circadian rhythm," Burris said.
Circadian rhythm refers to biological processes that cycle every 24 hours. In mammals, the internal clock that maintains circadian rhythm is essential for normal physiological functions. The rhythms can, however, be disrupted, and dysregulation of circadian rhythm is associated with many disorders, including metabolic disease and neuropsychiatric disorders including bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and sleep disorders.
The team examined effects of the REV-ERB drug on patterns of sleep and wakefulness and found that the compound increases wakefulness, reduces REM and slow-wave sleep, and, notably, decreases anxiety.
This is an interesting finding because it is unusual, researchers said. Frequently, drugs that increase arousal (wakefulness) also increase anxiety and drugs that decrease anxiety also decrease arousal. An exception to this common pattern is nicotine.
The REV-ERB drug, on the other hand, appears to target the clock in a way that is distinct from these common pathways.Burris speculated that REV-ERB targeted drug effect on the clock would modulate reward-seeking behaviour, and so may be useful in treating addiction. The research is published in the journal Nature Communications.