News FocusCircadian Rhythms

Clock Photoreceptor Shared By Plants and Animals

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Science  27 Nov 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5394, pp. 1628-1630
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5394.1628

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Researchers may have solved a mystery about the operation of the clocks that determine our daily rhythms. Despite much progress in pinning down the biochemical underpinnings of the clock mechanisms, the identity of the molecules that transmit the light signals that set those clocks has been unknown--until now, that is. Last week, a team reported in Science that a light-absorbing protein called cryptochrome is such a circadian photoreceptor in plants, while another paper in that same issue suggested that it might be one in mice as well (Science, 20 November, pp. 1488 and 1490). And this week, an article in Cell provides evidence that the protein plays a similar role in fruit flies. The results indicate that cryptochrome is not the only molecule that relays light signals to the circadian clocks in these species, and the data from mice are controversial. But just finding that cryptochrome plays a role in clocks from plants to mammals is quite a development, researchers say.