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The day within: circadian clock genes, cells and circuits

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Circadian rhythms are those daily cycles of behavior, physiology and metabolism that persist with a period of approximately 24 hours when individuals are held in a time-free environment. Their persistence betrays their maintenance by an internal clock or circadian pacemaker, in mammals the principal being the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus. The cycle of sleep and wakefulness is the most obvious circadian rhythm and sets the very tempo of our lives. Disruption of the SCN by disease, trauma, and pharmacological or genetic manipulation perturbs our circadian life. This presentation will review current knowledge of how the SCN operates as an autonomous neural clock, considering in particular the pacemaking activity of transcriptional feedback loops based upon circadian clock genes Period and Cryptochrome. It will also consider how SCN neurons operate together in a coherent circuit to deliver to other brain regions a synchronised circadian signal. Finally it wil consider the role of clocks in health.

This talk is part of the Cambridge University Biological Society series.

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