To adapt the timing of processes regulated by the circadian clock to seasonally varying photoperiods, the phase relation between the circadian clock and dusk or dawn ("phase of entrainment") must be tightly adjusted. The authors use a mathematical model of the molecular mammalian circadian oscillator to investigate the influence of the free-running period (tau) and the shape of the PRC on the phase of entrainment. They find that a phase-dependent sensitivity ("gating") of light-induced period gene transcription enables a constant phase relation to dusk or dawn under different photoperiods. Depending on the freerunning period tau and on the shaping of the PRC by gating, the model circadian oscillator tracks either light onset or light offset under different photoperiods. The study indicates that the phase of entrainment of oscillating cells can be systematically controlled by regulating both gating and the free-running period tau.