Patients with cirrhosis exhibit features of circadian disruption. Hyperammonaemia has been suggested to impair both homeostatic and circadian sleep regulation. Here, we tested if hyperammonaemia directly disrupts circadian rhythm generation in the central pacemaker, the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) of the hypothalamus. Wheel-running activity was recorded from mice fed with a hyperammonaemic or normal diet for ~35 days in a 12:12 light–dark (LD) cycle followed by ~15 days in constant darkness (DD). The expression of the clock protein PERIOD2 (PER2) was recorded from SCN explants before, during and after ammonia exposure, ±glutamate receptor antagonists. In LD, hyperammonaemic mice advanced their daily activity onset time by ~1 h (16.8 ± 0.3 vs. 18.1 ± 0.04 h, p =.009) and decreased their total activity, concentrating it during the first half of the night. In DD, hyperammonaemia reduced the amplitude of daily activity (551.5 ± 27.7 vs. 724.9 ± 59 counts, p =.007), with no changes in circadian period. Ammonia (≥0.01 mM) rapidly and significantly reduced PER2 amplitude, and slightly increased circadian period. The decrease in PER2 amplitude correlated with decreased synchrony among circadian cells in the SCN and increased extracellular glutamate, which was rescued by AMPA glutamate receptor antagonists. These data suggest that hyperammonaemia affects circadian regulation of rest-activity behaviour by increasing extracellular glutamate in the SCN.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)673-683
Number of pages11
JournalLiver International
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • astrocytes
  • central circadian clock
  • cirrhosis
  • hyperammonaemia
  • sleep-wake inversion
  • suprachiasmatic nuclei


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