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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2018 (2018), Article ID 5689165, 12 pages
Review Article

Perinatal Programming of Circadian Clock-Stress Crosstalk

Institute of Neurobiology, Center of Brain, Behavior & Metabolism, University of Lübeck, Marie-Curie Street, 23562 Lübeck, Germany

Correspondence should be addressed to Henrik Oster

Received 10 September 2017; Accepted 26 December 2017; Published 8 February 2018

Academic Editor: Oliver Stork

Copyright © 2018 Mariana Astiz and Henrik Oster. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


An intact communication between circadian clocks and the stress system is important for maintaining physiological homeostasis under resting conditions and in response to external stimuli. There is accumulating evidence for a reciprocal interaction between both—from the systemic to the molecular level. Disruption of this interaction by external factors such as shiftwork, jetlag, or chronic stress increases the risk of developing metabolic, immune, or mood disorders. From experiments in rodents, we know that both systems maturate during the perinatal period. During that time, exogenous factors such as stress or alterations in the external photoperiod may critically affect—or program—physiological functions later in life. This developmental programming process has been attributed to maternal stress signals reaching the embryo, which lastingly change gene expression through the induction of epigenetic mechanisms. Despite the well-known function of the adult circadian system in temporal coordination of physiology and behavior, the role of maternal and embryonic circadian clocks during pregnancy and postnatal development is still poorly defined. A better understanding of the circadian-stress crosstalk at different periods of development may help to improve stress resistance and devise preventive and therapeutic strategies against chronic stress-associated disorders.