The biological clock enhancer nobiletin ameliorates steatosis in genetically obese mice by restoring aberrant hepatic circadian rhythm

Sebastian Larion, Caleb A. Padgett, Joshua T. Butcher, James D. Mintz, David J. Fulton, David W. Stepp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is associated with disruption of homeostatic lipid metabolism, but underlying processes are poorly understood. One possible mechanism is impairment in hepatic circadian rhythm, which regulates key lipogenic mediators in the liver and whose circadian oscillation is diminished in obesity. Nobiletin enhances biological rhythms by activating RAR-related orphan receptor nuclear receptor, protecting against metabolic syndrome in a clock-dependent manner. The effect of nobiletin in NAFLD is unclear. In this study, we investigate the clock-enhancing effects of nobiletin in genetically obese (db/db) PER2::LUCIFERASE reporter mice with fatty liver. We report microarray expression data suggesting hepatic circadian signaling is impaired in db/db mice with profound hepatic steatosis. Circadian PER2 activity, as assessed by mRNA and luciferase assay, was significantly diminished in liver of db/db PER2::LUCIFERASE reporter mice. Continuous animal monitoring systems and constant dark studies suggest the primary circadian defect in db/db mice lies within peripheral hepatic oscillators and not behavioral rhythms or the master clock. In vitro, nobiletin restored PER2 amplitude in lipid-laden PER2::LUCIFERASE reporter macrophages. In vivo, nobiletin dramatically upregulated core clock gene expression, hepatic PER2 activity, and ameliorated steatosis in db/db PER2::LUCIFERASE reporter mice. Mechanistically, nobiletin reduced serum insulin levels, decreased hepatic Srebp1c, Acaca1, Tnfα, and Fgf21 expression, but did not improve Plin2, Plin5, or Cpt1, suggesting nobiletin attenuates steatosis in db/db mice via downregulation of hepatic lipid accumulation. These data suggest restoring endogenous rhythm with nobiletin resolves steatosis in obesity, proposing that hypothesis that targeting the biological clock may be an attractive therapeutic strategy for NAFLD.NEW & NOTEWORTHY NAFLD is the most common chronic liver disease, but underlying mechanisms are unclear. We show here that genetically obese (db/db) mice with fatty liver have impaired hepatic circadian rhythm. Hepatic Per2 expression and PER2 reporter activity are diminished in db/db PER2::LUCIFERASE mice. The biological clock-enhancer nobiletin restores hepatic PER2 in db/db PER2::LUCIFERASE mice, resolving steatosis via downregulation of Srebp1c. These studies suggest targeting the circadian clock may be beneficial strategy in NAFLD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)G387-G400
JournalAmerican journal of physiology. Gastrointestinal and liver physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2022


  • circadian rhythm
  • clock
  • nobiletin
  • steatosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Physiology (medical)


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