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Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2007 Apr;19(2):230-7. Epub 2007 Feb 20.

Signaling to the circadian clock: plasticity by chromatin remodeling.

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Department of Pharmacology, School of Medicine, University of California, Irvine, California 92697, USA.


Circadian rhythms govern several fundamental physiological functions in almost all organisms, from prokaryotes to humans. The circadian clocks are intrinsic time-tracking systems with which organisms can anticipate environmental changes and adapt to the appropriate time of day. In mammals, circadian rhythms are generated in pacemaker neurons within the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN), a small area of the hypothalamus, and are entrained by environmental cues, principally light. Disruption of these rhythms can profoundly influence human health, being linked to depression, insomnia, jet lag, coronary heart disease and a variety of neurodegenerative disorders. It is now well established that circadian clocks operate via transcriptional feedback autoregulatory loops that involve the products of circadian clock genes. Furthermore, peripheral tissues also contain independent clocks, whose oscillatory function is orchestrated by the SCN. The complex program of gene expression that characterizes circadian physiology involves dynamic changes in chromatin transitions. These remodeling events are therefore of great importance to ensure the proper timing and extent of circadian regulation. How signaling influences chromatin remodeling through histone modifications is therefore highly relevant in the context of circadian oscillation. Recent advances in the field have revealed unexpected links between circadian regulators, chromatin remodeling and cellular metabolism.

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