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PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e42695. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0042695. Epub 2012 Aug 10.

Circadian proteins CLOCK and BMAL1 in the chromatoid body, a RNA processing granule of male germ cells.

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Center for Epigenetics and Metabolism, School of Medicine, University of California Irvine, Irvine, California, United States of America.


Spermatogenesis is a complex differentiation process that involves genetic and epigenetic regulation, sophisticated hormonal control, and extensive structural changes in male germ cells. RNA nuclear and cytoplasmic bodies appear to be critical for the progress of spermatogenesis. The chromatoid body (CB) is a cytoplasmic organelle playing an important role in RNA post-transcriptional and translation regulation during the late steps of germ cell differentiation. The CB is also important for fertility determination since mutations of genes encoding its components cause infertility by spermatogenesis arrest. Targeted ablation of the Bmal1 and Clock genes, which encode central regulators of the circadian clock also result in fertility defects caused by problems other than spermatogenesis alterations. We show that the circadian proteins CLOCK and BMAL1 are localized in the CB in a stage-specific manner of germ cells. Both BMAL1 and CLOCK proteins physically interact with the ATP-dependent DEAD-box RNA helicase MVH (mouse VASA homolog), a hallmark component of the CB. BMAL1 is differentially expressed during the spermatogenic cycle of seminiferous tubules, and Bmal1 and Clock deficient mice display significant CB morphological alterations due to BMAL1 ablation or low expression. These findings suggest that both BMAL1 and CLOCK contribute to CB assembly and physiology, raising questions on the role of the circadian clock in reproduction and on the molecular function that CLOCK and BMAL1 could potentially have in the CB assembly and physiology.

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