Vertebrate cryptochrome homologs (CRYs) are negative regulators for the transcription/translation-based autoregulatory feedback loop of the circadian clock. In this study we identified two Cry genes in the chicken, cCry1 and cCry2, which are expressed in the pineal gland. Messenger RNA levels of both cCry1 and cCry2 displayed circadian oscillation in cultured pineal cells under light/dark and constant darkness conditions. Noticeably, their mRNA levels during the light period were significantly higher than those in the dark, indicating light-dependent up-regulation of the two Cry genes mediated by photoreceptor(s) intrinsic to the chick pineal cells. These cCRYs inhibited E-box element-dependent cBMAL1/2-cCLOCK-induced transcription, suggesting that the chick pineal circadian oscillator is composed of molecules that are functionally similar to those of mammals but are subject to light-regulation distinct from the mammalian clockwork.
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