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      Molecular components of the mammalian circadian clock

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      Human Molecular Genetics

      Oxford University Press (OUP)

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          Abstract

          Circadian rhythms are approximately 24-h oscillations in behavior and physiology, which are internally generated and function to anticipate the environmental changes associated with the solar day. A conserved transcriptional-translational autoregulatory loop generates molecular oscillations of 'clock genes' at the cellular level. In mammals, the circadian system is organized in a hierarchical manner, in which a master pacemaker in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) regulates downstream oscillators in peripheral tissues. Recent findings have revealed that the clock is cell-autonomous and self-sustained not only in a central pacemaker, the SCN, but also in peripheral tissues and in dissociated cultured cells. It is becoming evident that specific contribution of each clock component and interactions among the components vary in a tissue-specific manner. Here, we review the general mechanisms of the circadian clockwork, describe recent findings that elucidate tissue-specific expression patterns of the clock genes and address the importance of circadian regulation in peripheral tissues for an organism's overall well-being.

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          Most cited references 66

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          Coordinated transcription of key pathways in the mouse by the circadian clock.

          In mammals, circadian control of physiology and behavior is driven by a master pacemaker located in the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) of the hypothalamus. We have used gene expression profiling to identify cycling transcripts in the SCN and in the liver. Our analysis revealed approximately 650 cycling transcripts and showed that the majority of these were specific to either the SCN or the liver. Genetic and genomic analysis suggests that a relatively small number of output genes are directly regulated by core oscillator components. Major processes regulated by the SCN and liver were found to be under circadian regulation. Importantly, rate-limiting steps in these various pathways were key sites of circadian control, highlighting the fundamental role that circadian clocks play in cellular and organismal physiology.
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            The orphan nuclear receptor REV-ERBalpha controls circadian transcription within the positive limb of the mammalian circadian oscillator.

            Mammalian circadian rhythms are generated by a feedback loop in which BMAL1 and CLOCK, players of the positive limb, activate transcription of the cryptochrome and period genes, components of the negative limb. Bmal1 and Per transcription cycles display nearly opposite phases and are thus governed by different mechanisms. Here, we identify the orphan nuclear receptor REV-ERBalpha as the major regulator of cyclic Bmal1 transcription. Circadian Rev-erbalpha expression is controlled by components of the general feedback loop. Thus, REV-ERBalpha constitutes a molecular link through which components of the negative limb drive antiphasic expression of components of the positive limb. While REV-ERBalpha influences the period length and affects the phase-shifting properties of the clock, it is not required for circadian rhythm generation.
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              Extensive and divergent circadian gene expression in liver and heart.

              Many mammalian peripheral tissues have circadian clocks; endogenous oscillators that generate transcriptional rhythms thought to be important for the daily timing of physiological processes. The extent of circadian gene regulation in peripheral tissues is unclear, and to what degree circadian regulation in different tissues involves common or specialized pathways is unknown. Here we report a comparative analysis of circadian gene expression in vivo in mouse liver and heart using oligonucleotide arrays representing 12,488 genes. We find that peripheral circadian gene regulation is extensive (> or = 8-10% of the genes expressed in each tissue), that the distributions of circadian phases in the two tissues are markedly different, and that very few genes show circadian regulation in both tissues. This specificity of circadian regulation cannot be accounted for by tissue-specific gene expression. Despite this divergence, the clock-regulated genes in liver and heart participate in overlapping, extremely diverse processes. A core set of 37 genes with similar circadian regulation in both tissues includes candidates for new clock genes and output genes, and it contains genes responsive to circulating factors with circadian or diurnal rhythms.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Human Molecular Genetics
                Oxford University Press (OUP)
                1460-2083
                0964-6906
                October 15 2006
                October 15 2006
                October 15 2006
                October 15 2006
                October 15 2006
                October 15 2006
                : 15
                : suppl_2
                : R271-R277
                Article
                10.1093/hmg/ddl207
                16987893
                © 2006

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