Coupling-dependent metabolic ultradian rhythms in confluent cells

Shuzhang Yang, Shin Yamazaki, Kimberly H. Cox, Yi Lin Huang, Evan W. Miller, Joseph S. Takahashi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ultradian rhythms in metabolism and physiology have been described previously in mammals. However, the underlying mechanisms for these rhythms are still elusive. Here, we report the discovery of temperature-sensitive ultradian rhythms in mammalian fibroblasts that are independent of both the cell cycle and the circadian clock. The period in each culture is stable over time but varies in different cultures (ranging from 3 to 24 h). We show that transient, single-cell metabolic pulses are synchronized into stable ultradian rhythms across contacting cells in culture by gap junction–mediated coupling. Coordinated rhythms are also apparent for other metabolic and physiological measures, including plasma membrane potential (Δψp), intracellular glutamine, α-ketoglutarate, intracellular adenosine triphosphate (ATP), cytosolic pH, and intracellular calcium. Moreover, these ultradian rhythms require extracellular glutamine, several different ion channels, and the suppression of mitochondrial ATP synthase by α-ketoglutarate, which provides a key feedback mechanism. We hypothesize that cellular coupling and metabolic feedback can be used by cells to balance energy demands for survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2211142119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number45
StatePublished - Nov 8 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • cellular metabolism
  • gap junctions
  • ion channels
  • membrane potential
  • ultradian rhythms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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