Cryptochromes: sensory reception, transduction, and clock functions subserving circadian systems

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2000 Aug;10(4):456-66. doi: 10.1016/s0959-4388(00)00117-3.


Cryptochromes (CRYs) are blue-light-absorbing proteins involved in a variety of biological phenomena. In animals, CRYs exhibit a certain versatility with regard to these organisms' circadian rhythms, as has been revealed by the effects of mutations and molecular manipulations. The rhythm system of Drosophila uses one gene's worth of CRY protein to transmit light into a circadian clock within the brain, which controls the fly's sleep-wake cycles. In fact, the relevant pacemaking neurons are themselves circadian photoreceptive structures. In peripheral tissues and others located posterior to the brain, Drosophila CRY may be a photoreceptive molecule and also part of the pacemaker mechanism. Mice have two CRY-encoding genes. They are expressed in many tissues, including the retina and a clock structure within the brain. In the former location, mouse CRY may play a circadian-photoreceptive role, along with that mediated by rhodopsins found elsewhere in the retina. In the latter tissue, the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nucleus, mouse CRYs are closely connected to the multimolecule murine clock mechanism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Clocks / genetics*
  • Chronobiology Phenomena / genetics*
  • Circadian Rhythm / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Mice
  • Photoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Sensation / genetics*