Coordination of many of the body's behavioural, metabolic, and physiological processes are controlled
around the 24 hour clock typically controlled through endogenous mechanisms, but can be re-
synchronised (entrainable) by external stimuli. For example, the process of the body overcoming jetlag
via rhythms resetting. Circadian rhythms are observed in most mammalian cells, in vivo and in vitro. From
rhythmic gene expression and cell division, to metabolic oscillations, biological clocks regulate myriad
aspects of cell biology and physiology. Hence, their disruption is strongly associated with disease.
Current models indicate the main drivers of the process are the products of rhythmic expressions of
‘clock genes' over a 24 hour cycle, though the specific transcriptional component can differ. O'Neill &
Reddy, 2011  showed following temperature entrainment, circadian rhythms present in human red blood
cells (RBCs). Very little is known about RBC clock mechanisms, or whether functional consequences exist for
erythrocyte biology. To address this, we have established an electrophysiological approach to investigate
the causes and consequences of timekeeping in the RBCs.
We have employed dielectrophoresis through the 3DEP System to simultaneously measure cellular response
at 20 different frequencies to create a DEP “spectrum” of RBCs over a time course . The spectra are then
fit to a single shell dielectric model to obtain electrophysiological properties of the cells.
Following the isolation and entrainment methodologies described in , we used DEP to obtain the
electrophysiological properties of RBCs from four male adult donors. Our preliminary results provided DEP
fingerprints of four donors (Figure 1 A-C), from which the extracted membrane conductance Geff
andcytomplasmic conductivity σcyt fluctuated antiphasically with near-24-hour periods. The averages of
Geff and σcyt were fit to cosinor curves peaking at 17.35 h and 5.45 h after the end of the temperature
cycle, respectively.No significant variation was observed in Ceff, confirming the microscopic observation that
cell radius and morphology did not change over the incubation.
The near-antiphasic appearance of Geff and σcyt suggests a rhythmic regulation of
transmembrane ion flux. These results demonstrated, for the first time, a circadian rhythm in the
electrophysiological properties of both red blood cell membrane and cytoplasm. We interpreted the
observed changes in electrophysiological parameters as reflecting alterations in ion channel activity, which
in turn is likely to be mediated by post-translational modifications, in particular phosphorylation. As a first
step towards elucidating the mechanism underlying timekeeping in RBCs, we chose to investigate to what
extent it shares key features with the clock mechanism in nucleated cells, As an initial test, we predicted
that RBC rhythms would be sensitive to the generic kinase inhibitor, staurosporine. We observed an increase
in the circadian period of the electrophysiological oscillation.
One of the main issues with detecting circadian desynchrony in physiology is the absence of a non-invasive,
rapid method for detecting systemic temporal state. Recent studies show that forced circadian
desynchrony in humans leads to large-scale perturbation of circadian rhythmicity of blood mRNA's,
suggesting that blood is a good reflection of the wider internal desynchrony. Measurement of circadian
rhythms in animals routinely requires the sacrifice of multiple animals per time-point, meaning that tens of
animals are used in each experiment. DEP has the potential to provide an accurate and reproducible readout
of circadian status using very small blood volumes, and significantly reduce the numbers of animals required
for an experiment. Our preliminary data, using 10 µL tail-knick whole blood samples from voles,
demonstrates, for the first time, an electrophysiological correlate of the ultradian feeding-fasting cycle in
blood (Figure 1 D&E).
In the absence of nuclei or other organelles in RBCs, this work potentially indicates membrane
mechanisms involving differential ion channel activities and renders DEP a new technology to enhance the
understanding of chronobiology. Future work will investigate the underlying mechanisms behind these
changes and the effects of experimental conditions.
2.) HOETTGES, K. F., HÜBNER, Y., BROCHE, L. M., OGIN, S. L., KASS, G. E. N. & HUGHES, M. P. 2008.
Dielectrophoresis-activated multiwell plate for label-free high-throughput drug assessment.
Analytical Chemistry, 80, 2063-2068.
its application to a lymphoma cell. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 78, 251-269.
4.) FRY, C.H., SALVAGE, S.C., MANAZZA, A., DUPONT, E., LABEED, F. H., HUGHES, M. P. & JABR, R.I.
2012. Cytoplasm Resistivity of Mammalian Atrial Myocardium Determined by Dielectrophoresis and
Impedance Methods. Biophysical Journal, 103(11), 2287–2294.
Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 1: Electrophysiological results for isolated human RBCs. Circadian variation in A.) Membrane conductance, B.) Membrane Capacitance, and C.) Cytoplasmic Conductivity. D.) Ultradian variation in vole whole blood samples of cytoplasmic conductivity.
See more of this Group/Topical: 2015 Annual Meeting of the AES Electrophoresis Society