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J Biol Rhythms. 1998 Oct;13(5):364-79.

Alterations of per RNA in noncoding regions affect periodicity of circadian behavioral rhythms.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia 19104, USA.


Circadian rhythms in Drosophila depend on a molecular feedback loop that includes products of the period (per) and timeless (tim) genes. RNA and protein products of both genes cycle with a circadian period and the proteins feedback to inhibit expression of their own mRNAs. While cyclic expression of PER protein appears to be necessary for rhythmic behavior, the function of per RNA cycling is somewhat controversial. Rhythmic transcription accounts, in part, for cycling of per RNA, but it is clear now that posttranscriptional mechanisms also contribute to the cyclic expression of both per RNA and protein. As posttranscriptional mechanisms, such as mRNA stability and translation, are frequently mediated by 3' untranslated regions (UTR) of genes, the authors examined the role of this region of per in the regulation of circadian rhythms. Removal of most of per's 3' UTR had a small effect on the function of a per transgene. However, replacement of per's 3'UTR with corresponding sequences of the tubulin gene led to the rescue of behavioral rhythms in per01 flies with periods that were 3 h shorter than those generated by a wild-type per transgene. The hybrid RNA cycles, but the protein produced by it accumulates earlier in a day-night cycle than the PER protein produced by a control per transgene carrying its own 3'UTR, perhaps because the tubulin sequences counteract the effect of destabilizing elements in the per RNA at earlier points in the circadian cycle. These data indicate that the appropriate regulation of per RNA expression, effected by transcriptional as well as posttranscriptional mechanisms, is critical for the determination of circadian period.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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