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Insight into how the body tells time

als that still had the period gene and who were exposed to light and dark conditions. The biologic functions of most of these oscillating genes are unknown.

One of the most surprising results of the study was the discovery of hundreds of genes whose levels did not fluctuate with time of day, but responded drastically to different lighting conditions or to the presence or absence of a circadian clock.

"The fly's ability to regulate a large fraction of all its genes depending on a combination of day length and the circadian clock gives us an attractive model for understanding seasonal timekeeping," says co-author Russell N. Van Gelder, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences. "Defects in seasonal timekeeping are thought to be related to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), in which individuals experience recurrent depression during the short days of winter."

Three similar studies were published immediately preceding this paper, each estimating the number of genes controlled by the internal clock to be more than 100. Eighteen of the 22 genes identified in this study also were identified by one of the other three studies. However, the majority (84 percent) of the remaining genes identified by the other three groups were not included in any of the other lists.

"We feel that our analysis provides a minimal set of circadian genes about which we can feel fairly confident," says Taghert.

In an effort to optimize research initiatives, the School of Medicine team has posted all of their raw data on the Internet at http://circadian.wustl.edu.


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Contact: Gila Z. Reckess
reckessg@msnotes.wustl.edu
314-286-0109
Washington University School of Medicine
24-Jun-2002


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