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Discov Med. 2011 Apr;11(59):273-81.

Circadian clocks in mammalian reproductive physiology: effects of the "other" biological clock on fertility.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, 22904, USA.

Abstract

As a discipline, chronobiology has come of age in the last 25 years. There has been an exponential increase in our understanding of the molecular mechanism underlying circadian rhythms of gene expression, physiology, and behavior. While the mammalian clock mechanism has not yet been fully described, most of the primary gears have probably been identified; however, there remains a large submerged portion of this physiological iceberg. What is the extent of "clock-controlled gene" expression in the myriad cell types in mammals? What are the cell specific physiological processes that depend either directly or indirectly on the clock? These questions remain largely unanswered, but recent advances suggest a substantial link between basic clock function and physiology in several systems. In the reproductive system, there has been a recent surge in research on molecular clock function in neuroendocrine and endocrine tissues. This makes sense a priori, given the established link between the circadian clock, behavior (including reproductive behavior), and endocrine physiology. By understanding the role of the clock in basic mammalian reproductive physiology, we can begin to explore its role in the onset and progression of diseases that negatively affect fertility. Advances in this area will certainly yield novel insights into the etiology of these disorders and may provide new and exciting avenues for clinical research in reproduction and fertility.

PMID:
21524381
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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