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Cooling patients to sub-physiological temperatures is an integral part of modern medicine. We show that cold exposure induces temperature-specific changes to the higher-order chromatin and gene expression profiles of human cells. These changes are particularly dramatic at 18°C, a temperature synonymous with that experienced by patients undergoing controlled deep hypothermia during surgery. Cells exposed to 18°C exhibit largely nuclear-restricted transcriptome changes. These include the nuclear accumulation of mRNAs encoding components of the negative limbs of the core circadian clock, most notably REV-ERBα. This response is accompanied by compaction of higher-order chromatin and hindrance of mRNPs from engaging nuclear pores. Rewarming reverses chromatin compaction and releases the transcripts into the cytoplasm, triggering a pulse of negative limb gene proteins that reset the circadian clock. We show that cold-induced upregulation of REV-ERBα is sufficient to trigger this reset. Our findings uncover principles of the cellular cold response that must be considered for current and future applications involving therapeutic deep hypothermia.

Original publication

DOI

10.15252/embj.2020105604

Type

Journal article

Journal

EMBO J

Publication Date

09/10/2020

Keywords

REV-ERBα, chromatin compaction, circadian rhythm, cold stress, nuclear and cytoplasmic transcriptomes