Howard Hughes Medical Institute scientists have determined the three-dimensional structure of two proteins that help keep the body’s clocks in sync. The proteins, CLOCK and BMAL1, bind to each other to regulate the activity of thousands of genes whose expression fluctuates throughout the course of a day. Knowing the structure of the CLOCK:BMAL1 complex will help researchers understand the intricacies of how this regulation is carried out and how mutations in each protein lead the biological clock to go awry.
"What’s amazing is that we’ve now found out that almost every cell in your body has a clock," says Takahashi. "Over the past five years, the role of those clocks in peripheral tissues has really come to the forefront."