Circadian rhythms in a nutshell
Edery I
Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry,
Rutgers University,
Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine,
Piscataway, New Jersey 08854.
Physiol Genomics 2000 Aug 9; 3(2):59-74


Living organisms on this planet have adapted to the daily rotation of the earth on its axis. By means of endogenous circadian clocks that can be synchronized to the daily and seasonal changes in external time cues, most notably light and temperature, life forms anticipate environmental transitions, perform activities at biologically advantageous times during the day, and undergo characteristic seasonal responses. The effects of transmeridian flight and shift work are stark reminders that although modern technologies can create "cities that never sleep" we cannot escape the recalcitrance of endogenous clocks that regulate much of our physiology and behavior. Moreover, malfunctions in the human circadian timing system are implicated in several disorders, including chronic sleep disorders in the elderly, manic-depression, and seasonal affective disorders (SAD or winter depression). Recent progress in understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying circadian rhythms has been remarkable. In its most basic form, circadian clocks are comprised of a set of proteins that, by virtue of the design principles involved, generate a self-sustaining transcriptional-translational feedback loop with a free-running period of about 24 h. One or more of the clock components is acutely sensitive to light, resulting in an oscillator that can be synchronized to local time. This review provides an overview of the roles circadian clocks play in nature, how they might have arisen, human health concerns related to clock dysfunction, and mainly focuses on the clockworks found in Drosophila and mice, the two best studied animal model systems for understanding the biochemical and cellular bases of circadian rhythms.

Body clocks
Light therapy
Winter depression
SAD and negative ions
Vitamin D versus phototherapy
Bright light plus fluoxetine (Prozac)
Light therapy with blue wavelength LEDs
Agomelatine (Valdoxan) and melatonergic drugs
Pathophysiology of depression: Role of sleep and the melatonergic system
Jet lag: therapeutic use of melatonin and possible application of melatonin analogs

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