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Trends Neurosci. 2012 Sep;35(9):574-85. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2012.05.007. Epub 2012 Jun 28.

Speed control: cogs and gears that drive the circadian clock.

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Department of Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


In most organisms, an intrinsic circadian (~24-h) timekeeping system drives rhythms of physiology and behavior. Within cells that contain a circadian clock, specific transcriptional activators and repressors reciprocally regulate each other to generate a basic molecular oscillator. A mismatch of the period generated by this oscillator with the external environment creates circadian disruption, which can have adverse effects on neural function. Although several clock genes have been extensively characterized, a fundamental question remains: how do these genes work together to generate a ~24-h period? Period-altering mutations in clock genes can affect any of multiple regulated steps in the molecular oscillator. In this review, we examine the regulatory mechanisms that contribute to setting the pace of the circadian oscillator.

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