Organisms populating the earth are under the steady influence of daily and seasonal changes resulting from the planet's rotation and orbit around the sun. This periodic pattern most prominently manifested by the light-dark cycle has led to the establishment of endogenous circadian timing systems that synchronize biological functions to the environment. The mammalian circadian system is composed of many individual, tissue-specific clocks. To generate coherent physiological and behavioral responses, the phases of this multitude of clocks are orchestrated by the master circadian pacemaker residing in the suprachiasmatic nuclei of the brain. Genetic, biochemical and genomic approaches have led to major advances in understanding the molecular and cellular basis of mammalian circadian clock components and mechanisms.
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