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Research Helps Develop Better Understanding Of How The Internal Body Clock Is Tuned

Update Date: Aug 19, 2014 09:34 AM EDT

Researchers have discovered that internal body clocks are regulated by a type of molecule known as long non-coding RNA, according to a new study. 

The internal body clocks, also known as circadian clocks, regulate the daily "rhythms" of many bodily functions, such as from waking and sleeping to body temperature and hunger. 

"Although we know that long non-coding RNAs are abundant in many organisms, what they do in the body, and how they do it, has not been clear so far," said Dr. Yi Liu, Professor of Physiology, in the press release. "Our work establishes a role for long non-coding RNAs in 'tuning' the circadian clock, but also shows how they control gene expression."

A better understanding of how circadian clocks work would help understand several human disease including sleep disorders and depression. 

Researchers gained more understanding of the circadian rhythms by studying model systems involving the bread mold, Neurospora crassa. They found that the expression of a clock gene named frequency is controlled by a long non-coding RNA named qrf. Qrf doesn't encode protein but it can certainly control whether and how much frq protein is produced. 

"We anticipate a similar mode of action may operate in other organisms because similar RNAs have been found for clock genes in mice. In addition, such RNAs may also function in other biological processes because of their wide presence in genomes," added Dr. Liu, who is the Louise W. Kahn Scholar in Biomedical Research.

Findings of the study is published in the journal Nature

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