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J Biol Rhythms. 2010 Dec;25(6):442-9. doi: 10.1177/0748730410385281.

The circadian clock starts ticking at a developmentally early stage.

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Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.


Although overt diurnal rhythms of behavior do not begin until well after birth, molecular studies suggest that the circadian clock may begin much earlier at a cellular level: mouse embryonic fibroblasts, for example, already possess robust clocks. By multiple criteria, we found no circadian clock present in mouse embryonic stem cells. Nevertheless, upon their differentiation into neurons, circadian gene expression was observed. In the first steps along the pathway from ES cells to neurons, a neural precursor cell (NPC) line already showed robust circadian oscillations. Therefore, at a cellular level, the circadian clock likely begins at the very earliest stages of mammalian development.

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