Circadian rhythms are a hallmark of living organisms, observable in all walks of life from primitive bacteria to highly complex humans. They are believed to have evolved to co-ordinate the timing of biological and behavioural processes to the changing environmental needs brought on by the progression of day and night through the 24-h cycle. Most of the modern study of circadian rhythms has centred on so-called TTFLs (transcription–translation feedback loops), wherein a core group of ‘clock’ genes, capable of negatively regulating themselves, produce oscillations with a period of approximately 24 h. Recently, however, the prevalence of the TTFL paradigm has been challenged by a series of findings wherein circadian rhythms, in the form of redox reactions, persist in the absence of transcriptional cycles. We have found that circadian cycles of oxidation and reduction are conserved across all domains of life, strongly suggesting that non-TTFL mechanisms work in parallel with the canonical genetic processes of timekeeping to generate the cyclical cellular and behavioural phenotypes that we commonly recognize as circadian rhythms.

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