The molecular clockwork in mammals involves various clock genes with specific temporal expression patterns. Synchronization of the master circadian clock located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) is accomplished mainly via daily resetting of the phase of the clock by light stimuli. Phase shifting responses to light are correlated with induction of Per1, Per2 and Dec1 expression and a possible reduction of Cry2 expression within SCN cells. The timing of peripheral oscillators is controlled by the SCN when food is available ad libitum. Time of feeding, as modulated by temporal restricted feeding, is a potent 'Zeitgeber' (synchronizer) for peripheral oscillators with only weak synchronizing influence on the SCN clockwork. When restricted feeding is coupled with caloric restriction, however, timing of clock gene expression is altered within the SCN, indicating that the SCN function is sensitive to metabolic cues. The components of the circadian timing system can be differentially synchronized according to distinct, sometimes conflicting, temporal (time of light exposure and feeding) and homeostatic (metabolic) cues.
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