Deubiquitinases: key regulators of the circadian clock

Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2022 Nov 1;323(5):C1539-C1547. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.00289.2022. Epub 2022 Oct 3.


All living organisms experience daily environmental cycles and have consequently evolved to synchronize and adapt to this changing environment. Biological processes such as hormonal secretion, body temperature, and sleep follow daily cycles called circadian rhythms that are driven by a molecular clock running in most cells and tissues of the body. This clock is composed of transcriptional-translational negative feedback loops involving clock genes and proteins. This molecular mechanism functions with a period of ∼24 h, and it promotes daily rhythms in the expression of numerous genes. For this robust mechanism to function, the abundance and activity of clock proteins need to be tightly regulated. One of the mechanisms by which this can be achieved is ubiquitination. Indeed, many ubiquitin ligases can tag core clock proteins to target them for proteasomal degradation. However, deubiquitinases can reverse this process by removing or modifying these ubiquitin signals and are thus important enzymes in clock protein homeostasis and regulation. Recent studies on the mammalian and Drosophila clock mechanisms have identified a number of deubiquitinases able to stabilize core clock proteins, change their cellular localization or even regulate their activity. In this review, we aim to discuss the fundamental roles of ubiquitination and deubiquitination in the circadian clock by presenting all deubiquitinases found to be involved in circadian rhythms with the aim to give a global view of recent advances in this emerging field.

Keywords: USP2; circadian clock; circadian rhythms; deubiquitinase; ubiquitination.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CLOCK Proteins / genetics
  • Circadian Clocks*
  • Circadian Rhythm / genetics
  • Deubiquitinating Enzymes / genetics
  • Drosophila / physiology
  • Mammals
  • Ubiquitins


  • CLOCK Proteins
  • Deubiquitinating Enzymes
  • Ubiquitins