CLOCK and BMAL1 are bHLH-PAS-containing transcription factors that bind to E-box elements and are indispensable for expression of core circadian clock components such as the Per and Cry genes. A key step in expression is the heterodimerization of CLOCK and BMAL1 and their accumulation in the nucleus with an approximately 24-h periodicity. We show here that nucleocytoplasmic shuttling of BMAL1 is essential for transactivation and for degradation of the CLOCK/BMAL1 heterodimer. Using serial deletions and point mutants, we identified a functional nuclear localization signal and Crm1-dependent nuclear export signals in BMAL1. Transient-transfection experiments revealed that heterodimerization of CLOCK and BMAL1 accelerates their turnover, as well as E-box-dependent clock gene transcription. Moreover, in embryonic mouse fibroblasts, robust transcription of Per2 is tightly associated with massive degradation of the CLOCK/BMAL1 heterodimer. CRY proteins suppressed this process during the transcription-negative phase and led to nuclear accumulation of the CLOCK/BMAL1 heterodimer. Thus, these findings suggest that the decrease of BMAL1 abundance during the circadian cycle reflects robust transcriptional activation of clock genes rather than inhibition of BMAL1 synthesis.