ABSTRACT: The mammalian circadian timing system has a hierarchical structure, in that a master pacemaker located in the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) coordinates slave oscillators present in virtually all body cells. In both the SCN and peripheral organs, the rhythm-generating oscillators are self-sustained and cell-autonomous, and it is likely that the molecular makeup of master and slave oscillators is nearly identical. However, due to variations in period length, the phase coherence between peripheral oscillators in intact animals must be established by daily signals emanating directly or indirectly from the SCN master clock. The synchronization of individual cellular clocks in peripheral organs is probably accomplished by immediate-early genes that interpret the cyclic systemic signals and convey this phase information to core clock components. This model predicts that circadian gene expression in peripheral organs can be influenced either by systemic signals emanating from the SCN master clock, local oscillators, or both. We developed a transgenic mouse strain in which hepatocyte clocks are only operative when the tetracycline analog doxycycline is added to the food or drinking water. The genome-wide mapping of genes whose cyclic expression in liver does not depend on functional hepatocyte oscillators unveiled putative signaling pathways that may participate in the phase entrainment of peripheral clocks.
Cold Spring Harbor Symposia on Quantitative Biology 02/2007; 72:319-30.