Protein phosphatase 4 controls circadian clock dynamics by modulating CLOCK/BMAL1 activity

Genes & Development
July 2021
Full Article
Klemz S.
Wallach T.
Korge S.
Rosing M.
Klemz R.
Maier B.
Fiorenza NC.
Kaymak I.
Fritzsche AK.
Herzog ED.
Stanewsky R.
Kramer A.

In all organisms with circadian clocks, post-translational modifications of clock proteins control the dynamics of circadian rhythms, with phosphorylation playing a dominant role. All major clock proteins are highly phosphorylated, and many kinases have been described to be responsible. In contrast, it is largely unclear whether and to what extent their counterparts, the phosphatases, play an equally crucial role. To investigate this, we performed a systematic RNAi screen in human cells and identified protein phosphatase 4 (PPP4) with its regulatory subunit PPP4R2 as critical components of the circadian system in both mammals and Drosophila. Genetic depletion of PPP4 shortens the circadian period, whereas overexpression lengthens it. PPP4 inhibits CLOCK/BMAL1 transactivation activity by binding to BMAL1 and counteracting its phosphorylation. This leads to increased CLOCK/BMAL1 DNA occupancy and decreased transcriptional activity, which counteracts the “kamikaze” properties of CLOCK/BMAL1. Through this mechanism, PPP4 contributes to the critical delay of negative feedback by retarding PER/CRY/CK1δ-mediated inhibition of CLOCK/BMAL1.