The role of the circadian clock system in physiology

Violetta Pilorz, Charlotte Helfrich-Förster, Henrik Oster


Life on earth is shaped by the 24-h rotation of our planet around its axes. To adapt behavior and physiology to the concurring profound but highly predictable changes, endogenous circadian clocks have evolved that drive 24-h rhythms in invertebrate and vertebrate species. At the molecular level, circadian clocks comprised a set of clock genes organized in a system of interlocked transcriptional-translational feedback loops. A ubiquitous network of cellular central and peripheral tissue clocks coordinates physiological functions along the day through activation of tissue-specific transcriptional programs. Circadian rhythms impact on diverse physiological processes including the cardiovascular system, energy metabolism, immunity, hormone secretion, and reproduction. This review summarizes our current understanding of the mechanisms of circadian timekeeping in different species, its adaptation by external timing signals and the pathophysiological consequences of circadian disruption.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPflugers Archiv European Journal of Physiology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)227-239
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 02.2018


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