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Open Access Research article

Inflammation in the avian spleen: timing is everything

Kallur S Naidu, Louis W Morgan and Michael J Bailey*

Author Affiliations

From The Center for Biological Clocks Research, Department of Poultry Science, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-2472, USA

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BMC Molecular Biology 2010, 11:104  doi:10.1186/1471-2199-11-104

Published: 31 December 2010



The synchrony of an organism with both its external and internal environment is critical to well-being and survival. As a result, organisms display daily cycles of physiology and behavior termed circadian rhythms. At the cellular level, circadian rhythms originate via interlocked autoregulatory feedback loops consisting of circadian clock genes and their proteins. These regulatory loops provide the molecular framework that enables the intracellular circadian timing system necessary to generate and maintain subsequent 24 hr rhythms. In the present study we examine the daily control of circadian clock genes and regulation of the inflammatory response by the circadian clock in the spleen.


Our results reveal that circadian clock genes as well as proinflammatory cytokines, including Tnfά and IL-1β, display rhythmic oscillations of mRNA abundance over a 24 hr cycle. LPS-induced systemic inflammation applied at midday vs. midnight reveals a differential response of proinflammatory cytokine induction in the spleen, suggesting a daily rhythm of inflammation. Exogenous melatonin administration at midday prior to LPS stimulation conveys pleiotropic effects, enhancing and repressing inflammatory cytokines, indicating melatonin functions as both a pro- and anti-inflammatory molecule in the spleen.


In summary, a daily oscillation of circadian clock genes and inflammatory cytokines as well as the ability of melatonin to function as a daily mediator of inflammation provides valuable information to aid in deciphering how the circadian timing system regulates immune function at the molecular level. However, further research is needed to clarify the precise mechanisms by which the circadian clock and melatonin have an impact upon daily immune functions in the periphery.