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Kimberly H Cox and Joseph S Takahashi

The mammalian circadian clock has evolved as an adaptation to the 24-h light/darkness cycle on earth. Maintaining cellular activities in synchrony with the activities of the organism (such as eating and sleeping) helps different tissue and organ systems coordinate and optimize their performance. The full extent of the mechanisms by which cells maintain the clock are still under investigation, but involve a core set of clock genes that regulate large networks of gene transcription both by direct transcriptional activation/repression as well as the recruitment of proteins that modify chromatin states more broadly.