Most organisms contain self-sustained circadian clocks. These clocks can be synchronized by environmental stimuli, but can also oscillate indefinitely in isolation. In mammals this is true at the molecular level for the majority of cell types that have been examined. A core set of “clock genes” form a transcriptional/translational feedback loop (TTFL) which repeats with a period of approximately 24 h. The exact mechanism of the TTFL differs slightly in various cell types, but all involve similar family members of the core cohort of clock genes. The clock has many outputs which are unique for different tissues. Cells in diverse tissues will convert the timing signals provided by the TTFL into uniquely orchestrated transcriptional oscillations of many clock-controlled genes and cellular processes.

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