Findings about "clock proteins" offer the potential to manage circadian rhythm and treat problems like sleep, anxiety disorders.
Thomas Burris, PhD, chair of pharmacological and physiological science at Saint Louis University, and his colleagues examined compounds that target a protein called REV-ERB. It is a core component of our clock, which appears to play a key role in regulating mammals' internal clocks.
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.
"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."
The REV-ERB drug appears to target the clock in a way that is distinct from the common pathways where drugs that increase arousal (wakefulness) also increase anxiety. For example, cocaine, amphetamines). And, vice versa: Drugs that decrease anxiety also decrease arousal (for example, benzodiazepines, ethanol).
Further, the REV-ERB drug appears to be associated with a suppression of reward-seeking behavior.
Drug addiction has a circadian component and mice with mutations in "clock genes" (genes that affect our internal clocks) have altered responsiveness to the reward associated with cocaine, morphine and alcohol.
Burris speculates that REV-ERB targeted drug effect on the clock would modulate reward-seeking behavior, and so may be useful in treating addiction.