pp 435-436 December 2008
pp 437-446 December 2008 Review Article
A functional mouse CLOCK protein has long been thought to be essential for mammalian circadian clockwork function, based mainly on studies of mice bearing a dominant negative, antimorphic mutation in the Clock gene. However, new discoveries using recently developed Clock-null mutant mice have shaken up this view. In this review, I discuss how this recent work impacts and alters the previous view of the role of CLOCK in the mouse circadian clockwork.
pp 447-458 December 2008 Review Article
An essential component of energy homeostasis lies in an organism’s ability to coordinate daily patterns in activity, feeding, energy utilization and energy storage across the daily 24-h cycle. Most tissues of the body contain the molecular clock machinery required for circadian oscillation and rhythmic gene expression. Under normal circumstances, behavioural and physiological rhythms are orchestrated and synchronized by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus, considered to be the master circadian clock. However, metabolic processes are easily decoupled from the primarily light-driven SCN when food intake is desynchronized from normal diurnal patterns of activity. This dissociation from SCN based timing demonstrates that the circadian system is responsive to changes in energy supply and metabolic status. There has long been evidence for the existence of an anatomically distinct and autonomous food-entrainable oscillator (FEO) that can govern behavioural rhythms, when feeding becomes the dominant entraining stimulus. But now rapidly growing evidence suggests that core circadian clock genes are involved in reciprocal transcriptional feedback with genetic regulators of metabolism, and are directly responsive to cellular energy supply. This close interaction is likely to be critical for normal circadian regulation of metabolism, and may also underlie the disruption of proper metabolic rhythms observed in metabolic disorders, such as obesity and type-II diabetes.
pp 459-466 December 2008 Review Article
Circadian clocks are thought to regulate retinal physiology in anticipation of the large variation in environmental irradiance associated with the earth’s rotation upon its axis. In this review we discuss some of the rhythmic events that occur in the mammalian retina, and their consequences for retinal physiology. We also review methods of tracing retinal rhythmicity in vivo and highlight the electroretinogram (ERG) as a useful technique in this field. Principally, we discuss how this technique can be used as a quick and noninvasive way of assessing physiological changes that occur in the retina over the course of the day. We highlight some important recent findings facilitated by this approach and discuss its strengths and limitations.
pp 467-471 December 2008 Research Article
In mammals, the mechanism for the generation of circadian rhythms and entrainment by light–dark (LD) cycles resides in the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN), and the principal signal that adjusts this biological clock with environmental timing is the light:dark cycle. Within the SCN, rhythms are generated by a complex of molecular feedback loops that regulate the transcription of clock genes, including per and cry. Posttranslational modification plays an essential role in the regulation of biological rhythms; in particular, clock gene phosphorylation by casein kinase I, both epsilon (CKI𝜖) and delta (CKI𝛿), regulates key molecular mechanisms in the circadian clock. In this paper, we report for the first time that CKI activity undergoes a significant circadian rhythm in the SCN (peaking at circadian time 12, the start of the subjective night), and its pharmacological inhibition alters photic entrainment of the clock, indicating that CKI may be a key element in this pathway.
pp 473-483 December 2008 Research Article
Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) is a keystone species in the southern ocean ecosystem where it is the main consumer of phytoplankton and constitutes the main food item of many higher predators. Both food and predators are most abundant at the surface, thus krill hide in the depth of the ocean during the day and migrate to the upper layers at night, to feed at a time when the predatory risk is lowest. Although the functional significance of this diel vertical migration (DVM) is clear and its modulation by environmental factors has been described, the involvement of an endogenous circadian clock in this behaviour is as yet not fully resolved. We have analysed the circadian behaviour of Euphausia superba in a laboratory setting and here we present the first description of locomotor activity rhythms for this species. Our results are in agreement with the hypothesis that the circadian clock plays a key role in DVM. They also suggest that the interplay between food availability, social cues and the light:dark cycle acts as the predominant Zeitgeber for DVM in this species.
pp 485-493 December 2008 Review Article
As an experimental model system, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has been seminal in shaping our understanding of the circadian clockwork. The wealth of genetic tools at our disposal over the past four decades has enabled discovery of the genetic and molecular bases of circadian rhythmicity. More recently, detailed investigation leading to the anatomical, neurochemical and electrophysiological characterization of the various neuronal subgroups that comprise the circadian machinery has revealed pathways through which these neurons come together to act as a neuronal circuit. Thus the D. melanogaster circadian pacemaker circuit presents a relatively simple and attractive model for the study of neuronal circuits and their functions.
pp 495-504 December 2008 Review Article
Extensive research has been carried out to understand how circadian clocks regulate various physiological processes in organisms. The discovery of clock genes and the molecular clockwork has helped researchers to understand the possible role of these genes in regulating various metabolic processes. In Drosophila melanogaster, many studies have shown that the basic architecture of circadian clocks is multi-oscillatory. In nature, different neuronal subgroups in the brain of D. melanogaster have been demonstrated to control different circadian behavioural rhythms or different aspects of the same circadian rhythm. Among the circadian phenomena that have been studied so far in Drosophila, the egg-laying rhythm is unique, and relatively less explored. Unlike most other circadian rhythms, the egg-laying rhythm is rhythmic under constant light conditions, and the endogenous or free-running period of the rhythm is greater than those of most other rhythms. Although the clock genes and neurons required for the persistence of adult emergence and activity/rest rhythms have been studied extensively, those underlying the circadian egg-laying rhythm still remain largely unknown. In this review, we discuss our current understanding of the circadian egg-laying rhythm in D. melanogaster, and the possible molecular and physiological mechanisms that control the rhythmic output of the egg-laying process.
pp 505-511 December 2008 Review Article
MicroRNA (miRNA) is a recently discovered new class of small RNA molecules that have a significant role in regulating gene and protein expression. These small RNAs (∼22 nt) bind to 3′ untranslated regions (3′UTRs) and induce degradation or repression of translation of their mRNA targets. Hundreds of miRNAs have been identified in various organisms and have been shown to play a significant role in development and normal cell functioning. Recently, a few studies have suggested that miRNAs may be an important regulators of circadian rhythmicity, providing a new dimension (posttranscriptional) of our understanding of biological clocks. Here, we describe the mechanisms of miRNA regulation, and recent studies attempting to identify clock miRNAs and their function in the circadian system.
pp 513-519 December 2008 Review Article
Circadian rhythms and sleep are two separate but intimately related processes. Circadian rhythms are generated through the precisely controlled, cyclic expression of a number of genes designated clock genes. Genetic variability in these genes has been associated with a number of phenotypic differences in circadian as well as sleep parameters, both in mouse models and in humans. Diurnal preferences as determined by the selfreported Horne–Östberg (HÖ) questionnaire, has been associated with polymorphisms in the human genes CLOCK, PER1, PER2 and PER3. Circadian rhythm-related sleep disorders have also been associated with mutations and polymorphisms in clock genes, with the advanced type cosegrating in an autosomal dominant inheritance pattern with mutations in the genes PER2 and CSNK1D, and the delayed type associating without discernible Mendelian inheritance with polymorphisms in CLOCK and PER3. Several mouse models of clock gene null alleles have been demonstrated to have affected sleep homeostasis. Recent findings have shown that the variable number tandem polymorphism in PER3, previously linked to diurnal preference, has profound effects on sleep homeostasis and cognitive performance following sleep loss, confirming the close association between the processes of circadian rhythms and sleep at the genetic level.
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