Nature's Intricate Clockwork

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Science  13 Jul 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6091, pp. 165-166
DOI: 10.1126/science.1224611

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Much of human physiology and behavior is influenced by circadian rhythms (1). Whether you burned the midnight oil, rose at the crack of dawn, or enjoyed your rest last night, tiny clocks in your cells have been trying to keep you on schedule. Over the past decade, remarkable progress has been made in elucidating the molecular genetics of these single-cell oscillators (2, 3). More recently, structural biology has begun to contribute a detailed picture of our clock components. On page 189 of this issue, Huang et al. (4) move these efforts forward dramatically with a crystal structure of the heterodimeric transcriptional activator CLOCK:BMAL1, a protein complex that is a key component of the circadian oscillator in mammals.