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1.  A direct repeat of E-box-like elements is required for cell-autonomous circadian rhythm of clock genes 
The circadian expression of the mammalian clock genes is based on transcriptional feedback loops. Two basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) PAS (for Period-Arnt-Sim) domain-containing transcriptional activators, CLOCK and BMAL1, are known to regulate gene expression by interacting with a promoter element termed the E-box (CACGTG). The non-canonical E-boxes or E-box-like sequences have also been reported to be necessary for circadian oscillation.
We report a new cis-element required for cell-autonomous circadian transcription of clock genes. This new element consists of a canonical E-box or a non-canonical E-box and an E-box-like sequence in tandem with the latter with a short interval, 6 base pairs, between them. We demonstrate that both E-box or E-box-like sequences are needed to generate cell-autonomous oscillation. We also verify that the spacing nucleotides with constant length between these 2 E-elements are crucial for robust oscillation. Furthermore, by in silico analysis we conclude that several clock and clock-controlled genes possess a direct repeat of the E-box-like elements in their promoter region.
We propose a novel possible mechanism regulated by double E-box-like elements, not to a single E-box, for circadian transcriptional oscillation. The direct repeat of the E-box-like elements identified in this study is the minimal required element for the generation of cell-autonomous transcriptional oscillation of clock and clock-controlled genes.
PMCID: PMC2254435  PMID: 18177499
2.  The in vitro real-time oscillation monitoring system identifies potential entrainment factors for circadian clocks 
Circadian rhythms are endogenous, self-sustained oscillations with approximately 24-hr rhythmicity that are manifested in various physiological and metabolic processes. The circadian organization of these processes in mammals is governed by the master oscillator within the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) of the hypothalamus. Recent findings revealed that circadian oscillators exist in most organs, tissues, and even in immortalized cells, and that the oscillators in peripheral tissues are likely to be coordinated by SCN, the master oscillator. Some candidates for endogenous entrainment factors have sporadically been reported, however, their details remain mainly obscure.
We developed the in vitro real-time oscillation monitoring system (IV-ROMS) by measuring the activity of luciferase coupled to the oscillatory gene promoter using photomultiplier tubes and applied this system to screen and identify factors able to influence circadian rhythmicity. Using this IV-ROMS as the primary screening of entrainment factors for circadian clocks, we identified 12 candidates as the potential entrainment factor in a total of 299 peptides and bioactive lipids. Among them, four candidates (endothelin-1, all-trans retinoic acid, 9-cis retinoic acid, and 13-cis retinoic acid) have already been reported as the entrainment factors in vivo and in vitro. We demonstrated that one of the novel candidates, 15-deoxy-Δ12,14-prostaglandin J2 (15d-PGJ2), a natural ligand of the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ (PPAR-γ), triggers the rhythmic expression of endogenous clock genes in NIH3T3 cells. Furthermore, we showed that 15d-PGJ2 transiently induces Cry1, Cry2, and Rorα mRNA expressions and that 15d-PGJ2-induced entrainment signaling pathway is PPAR-γ – and MAPKs (ERK, JNK, p38MAPK)-independent.
Here, we identified 15d-PGJ2 as an entrainment factor in vitro. Using our developed IV-ROMS to screen 299 compounds, we found eight novel and four known molecules to be potential entrainment factors for circadian clocks, indicating that this assay system is a powerful and useful tool in initial screenings.
PMCID: PMC1386696  PMID: 16483373
3.  Transcriptional oscillation of canonical clock genes in mouse peripheral tissues 
The circadian rhythm of about 24 hours is a fundamental physiological function observed in almost all organisms from prokaryotes to humans. Identification of clock genes has allowed us to study the molecular bases for circadian behaviors and temporal physiological processes such as hormonal secretion, and has prompted the idea that molecular clocks reside not only in a central pacemaker, the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) of hypothalamus in mammals, but also in peripheral tissues, even in immortalized cells. Furthermore, previous molecular dissection revealed that the mechanism of circadian oscillation at a molecular level is based on transcriptional regulation of clock and clock-controlled genes.
We systematically analyzed the mRNA expression of clock and clock-controlled genes in mouse peripheral tissues. Eight genes (mBmal1, mNpas2, mRev-erbα, mDbp, mRev-erbβ, mPer3, mPer1 and mPer2; given in the temporal order of the rhythm peak) showed robust circadian expressions of mRNAs in all tissues except testis, suggesting that these genes are core molecules of the molecular biological clock. The bioinformatics analysis revealed that these genes have one or a combination of 3 transcriptional elements (RORE, DBPE, and E-box), which are conserved among human, mouse, and rat genome sequences, and indicated that these 3 elements may be responsible for the biological timing of expression of canonical clock genes.
The observation of oscillatory profiles of canonical clock genes is not only useful for physiological and pathological examination of the circadian clock in various organs but also important for systematic understanding of transcriptional regulation on a genome-wide basis. Our finding of the oscillatory expression of canonical clock genes with a temporal order provides us an interesting hypothesis, that cyclic timing of all clock and clock-controlled genes may be dependent on several transcriptional elements including 3 known elements, E-box, RORE, and DBPE.
PMCID: PMC535906  PMID: 15473909

Results 1-3 (3)