Circadian rhythms regulate the functions of living systems at virtually every level of organization, from molecule to organism. In the past year, our understanding of the cellular and molecular processes involved in the generation and regulation of circadian rhythms has advanced considerably. New in vitro model systems for studying circadian oscillators have been developed, a potential regulatory role for cellular immediate-early genes in circadian behavior has been discovered, critical periods for macromolecular synthesis for progression of the circadian clock through its cycle have been defined, and studies of the Drosophila period gene have offered new insight into the clock mechanism. These findings are of particular interest because independent approaches using vertebrates, mollusks and Drosophila all point to a common theme that involves the expression of 'clock proteins' as the basis of the timing mechanism.
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