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Abstract

The time structure of a biological system is at least as intricate as its spatial structure. Whereas we have detailed information about the latter, our understanding of the former is still rudimentary. As techniques for monitoring intracellular processes continuously in single cells become more refined, it becomes increasingly evident that periodic behaviour abounds in all time domains. Timekeeping is essential for synchronization and coordination of intracellular processes. The presence of a temperature-compensated oscillator provides such a timer. The coupled outputs (epigenetic oscillations) of this ultradian clock constitute a special class of ultradian rhythm. These are undamped and endogenously driven by a device which shows biochemical properties characteristic of transcriptional and translational elements. Energy-yielding processes, protein turnover, motility, and the timing of the cell division cycle processes, are all controlled by the ultradian clock. Different periods 30 min-4h characterize different species.