The polyglutamine motif is highly conserved at the Clock locus in various organisms and is not polymorphic in humans
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Circadian rhythms play a central role in diverse physiological phenomena and the recent years have witnessed the identification of a number of genes responsible for the maintenance of these rhythms. One of these is the Clock gene, which was first identified in mouse and subsequently in a large number of organisms, including humans. The human Clock gene has been proposed as a possible candidate for disorders affected by alterations of circadian rhythm, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. This gene contains a highly conserved polyglutamine motif, that in humans is coded for by CAG repeats. In view of the involvement of CAG repeat expansion in a number of neuro-psychiatric disorders, we have sought to determine the polymorphism status of CAG repeats at the Clock locus in humans. Our analysis of 190 unrelated individuals, who included patients suffering from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, indicated that the repeat, which consisted of 6 CAG triplets, was not polymorphic in humans. An analysis of the repeat in non-human primates and other organisms revealed that the glutamine stretch is shortest in humans and baboons, and longest in Drosophila and zebrafish. A study of various Drosophila species revealed that the repeat number is highly polymorphic, ranging from 25 to 33 pure glutamine repeats. Unlike most other microsatellites, the CAG repeat stretch at the Clock locus in humans is smaller than its homologues in non-human primates. We propose that glutamine repeat size is functionally important in this gene and thus tightly regulated. The variation in repeat number is probably deleterious to the individual, resulting in the maintenance of a short and invariable repeat structure in the human population.
KeywordsSchizophrenia Bipolar Disorder Circadian Rhythm Clock Gene Polyglutamine
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