Orchestration of Circadian Timing by Macromolecular Protein Assemblies

J Mol Biol. 2020 May 29;432(12):3426-3448. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2019.12.046. Epub 2020 Jan 13.


Genetically encoded biological clocks are found broadly throughout eukaryotes and in cyanobacteria, where they generate circadian (about a day) rhythms that allow organisms to anticipate regular environmental changes and align their physiology and behavior with Earth's daily light/dark cycle. In recent years, many have sought to expand our biochemical and structural understanding of the clock proteins that constitute the molecular "cogs" of these biological clocks. These new studies are beginning to reveal how macromolecular assemblies of dedicated clock proteins form and evolve to contribute to the generation of clocks that function over the timescale of a day. This review will highlight structural and biochemical studies that provide important insight into the molecular mechanisms of cyanobacterial and vertebrate animal clocks. Collectively, these studies demonstrate emerging biochemical properties that appear to be shared by these different clocks, suggesting that there may be some conservation in the regulation and assembly of circadian macromolecular assemblies.

Keywords: activation; competition; cooperativity; repression; sequestration.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CLOCK Proteins / genetics*
  • Circadian Clocks / genetics*
  • Circadian Rhythm / genetics*
  • Cyanobacteria / genetics*
  • Cyanobacteria / growth & development
  • Photoperiod
  • Vertebrates / genetics
  • Vertebrates / growth & development


  • CLOCK Proteins