New insights into non-transcriptional regulation of mammalian core clock proteins

J Cell Sci. 2020 Sep 15;133(18):jcs241174. doi: 10.1242/jcs.241174.


Mammalian circadian rhythms drive ∼24 h periodicity in a wide range of cellular processes, temporally coordinating physiology and behaviour within an organism, and synchronising this with the external day-night cycle. The canonical model for this timekeeping consists of a delayed negative-feedback loop, containing transcriptional activator complex CLOCK-BMAL1 (BMAL1 is also known as ARNTL) and repressors period 1, 2 and 3 (PER1, PER2 and PER3) and cryptochrome 1 and 2 (CRY1 and CRY2), along with a number of accessory factors. Although the broad strokes of this system are defined, the exact molecular mechanisms by which these proteins generate a self-sustained rhythm with such periodicity and fidelity remains a topic of much research. Recent studies have identified prominent roles for a number of crucial post-transcriptional, translational and, particularly, post-translational events within the mammalian circadian oscillator, providing an increasingly complex understanding of the activities and interactions of the core clock proteins. In this Review, we highlight such contemporary work on non-transcriptional events and set it within our current understanding of cellular circadian timekeeping.

Keywords: Cellular timekeeping; Circadian rhythm; Post-transcriptional modification; Post-translational modification; Translational regulation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • ARNTL Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Animals
  • CLOCK Proteins* / genetics
  • CLOCK Proteins* / metabolism
  • Circadian Rhythm / genetics
  • Cryptochromes / genetics
  • Cryptochromes / metabolism
  • Period Circadian Proteins* / genetics
  • Period Circadian Proteins* / metabolism


  • ARNTL Transcription Factors
  • Cryptochromes
  • Period Circadian Proteins
  • CLOCK Proteins