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BMC Mol Biol. 2008 Jan 4;9:1. doi: 10.1186/1471-2199-9-1.

A direct repeat of E-box-like elements is required for cell-autonomous circadian rhythm of clock genes.

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  • 1Osaka Bioscience Institute, Suita, Osaka 565-0874, Japan.



The circadian expression of the mammalian clock genes is based on transcriptional feedback loops. Two basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) PAS (for Period-Arnt-Sim) domain-containing transcriptional activators, CLOCK and BMAL1, are known to regulate gene expression by interacting with a promoter element termed the E-box (CACGTG). The non-canonical E-boxes or E-box-like sequences have also been reported to be necessary for circadian oscillation.


We report a new cis-element required for cell-autonomous circadian transcription of clock genes. This new element consists of a canonical E-box or a non-canonical E-box and an E-box-like sequence in tandem with the latter with a short interval, 6 base pairs, between them. We demonstrate that both E-box or E-box-like sequences are needed to generate cell-autonomous oscillation. We also verify that the spacing nucleotides with constant length between these 2 E-elements are crucial for robust oscillation. Furthermore, by in silico analysis we conclude that several clock and clock-controlled genes possess a direct repeat of the E-box-like elements in their promoter region.


We propose a novel possible mechanism regulated by double E-box-like elements, not to a single E-box, for circadian transcriptional oscillation. The direct repeat of the E-box-like elements identified in this study is the minimal required element for the generation of cell-autonomous transcriptional oscillation of clock and clock-controlled genes.

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