Understanding Circadian Rhythmicity in Neurospora crassa: From Behavior to Genes and Back Again
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Circadian clocks have been described in organisms ranging in complexity from unicells to mammals, in which they function to control daily rhythms in cellular activities and behavior. The significance of a detailed understanding of the clock can be appreciated by its ubiquity and its established involvement in human physiology, including endocrine function, sleep/wake cycles, psychiatric illness, and drug tolerances and effectiveness. Because the clock in all organisms is assembled within the cell and clock mechanisms are evolutionarily conserved, simple eukaryotes provide appropriate experimental systems for dissecting the clock. Significant progress has been made in deciphering the circadian system in Neurospora crassa using both genetic and molecular approaches, and Neurospora has contributed greatly to our understanding of (1) the feedback cycle that comprises a circadian oscillator, (2) the mechanisms by which the clock is kept in synchrony with the environment, and (3) the genes that reside in rhythmic output pathways. Importantly, the lessons learned in Neurospora are relevant to our understanding of clocks in higher eukaryotes.
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