The circadian cycle is a genetically encoded clock that drives cellular rhythms of transcription, translation and metabolism. The circadian clock interacts with the diurnal environment that also drives transcription and metabolism during light/dark, sleep/wake, hot/cold and feast/fast daily and seasonal cycles. Epigenetic regulation provides a mechanism for cells to integrate genetic programs with environmental signals in order produce an adaptive and consistent output. Recent studies have revealed that DNA methylation is one epigenetic mechanism that entrains the circadian clock to a diurnal environment. We also review recent circadian findings in the epigenetic neurodevelopmental disorders Prader-Willi, Angelman and Rett syndromes and hypothesize a link between optimal brain development and intact synchrony between circadian and diurnal rhythms.
© The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press.