Sleep scientists are tinkering with our circadian clocks

Our circadian clock is the part of our brain the regulates our body's cycle, making sure that we sleep, eat and act in concordance with the twenty-four-hour day.

Even though we know it's there and what it does, picking apart the mechanisms of its action has been a long and laborious process for scientists. New research has unlocked one more part of this biohorological puzzle.

There's an ongoing negative feedback loop occurring in our body which the circadian rhythm relies on. The group of proteins known as PER complex inhibit the activity of a transcription factor, called CLOCK-BMAL1. Once inhibited, this represses the expression of the PER proteins, and the cycle sways again.

What this research team has shown is the method by which the PER proteins manage to inhibit CLOCK-BMAL1. There's a specific protein known as PSF which is part of the PER complex, which recruits another protein, SIN3-histone deacetylase complex, which is what inhibits CLOCK-BMAL1 activity. They think this mechanism is shared in common with all life that has a circadian rhythm, including mammals, insects, plants and fungi, and comes our eukaryotic predecessors.

Why do these crazy acronyms matter? By removing the PSF or SIN3-histone deacetylase complex, the researchers have found the can dramatically shorten the circadian cycle — how else are we going to adapt to the 14-hour days of another planet?

[Via Science]