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Genetic studies have revealed several clock gene variations/mutations involved in the manifestation of sleep disorders or interindividual differences in sleep-wake patterns, but only part of the genetic risk can be explained by the gene variations/mutations identified to date. Recent progress in research into circadian rhythm generation has provided efficient tools for eliciting the molecular basis of clock-relevant sleep disorders, complementing traditional genetic analysis. While the human master clock resides in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus (central clock), peripheral tissue cells also generate self-sustained circadian oscillations of clock gene expression (peripheral clock), enabling estimation of individual human clock properties through a single collection of skin fibroblasts or venous blood cells. Some of the established cell lines exhibit autonomous circadian oscillations of clock gene expression, and introduction of clock gene variations into these cell lines by gene targeting makes it possible to investigate changes in the circadian phenotype induced by these variations/mutations without the need for generating transgenic animals. Estimation of human clock properties using peripheral tissue cells, in addition to genetic analysis, will facilitate comprehensive explication of the genetic risk of a variety of disorders relevant to biological clock disturbances, including sleep disorders, mood disorders, and metabolic diseases.


Takashi Ebisawa. Analysis of the molecular pathophysiology of sleep disorders relevant to a disturbed biological clock. Molecular genetics and genomics : MGG. 2013 Apr;288(3-4):185-93

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PMID: 23546644

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