The central clock in our brain that maintains many of our bodily functions may communicate its ticking to the rest of the body via a small protein called prokineticin 2, report Qun-Yong Zhou of the University of California at Irvine, and colleagues, in this week's Nature (Vol. 415, No. 6887, pp. 405-410).
Prokineticin 2 fulfils many of the criteria expected of the missing messenger. For example, it is expressed rhythmically, and in response to light, in the central body clock - the suprachiasmatic nucleus - in mice. And it is resistant to degradation by protein-cleaving enzymes, making it ideal for long-range signalling in space and time.
These results "offer enormous scope for intervening in sleep and other circadian disorders, and provide a new tool with which to explore the molecular and neurochemical control of complex behaviours", says Michael H. Hastings of the MRC Centre in Cambridge in an accompanying News and Views article.
Michael H. Hastings
(C) Nature press release.
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