A team of researchers including a Texas A&M University molecular biologist has shown that concept—that the speed of creation affects performance—applies to how a protein they studied impacts an organism's circadian clock function. This discovery provides new insights into the significance of the genetic code for controlling the rates at which critically important proteins are synthesized, and could lead to better understanding of cancers and other diseases.

"Living organisms' inner clocks are like Swiss watches with precisely manufactured spring mechanisms," said Matthew Sachs, a professor in the Texas A&M Department of Biology. "For example, if you fast-temper a critical spring, the watch may be unable to keep time, as opposed to slow-tempering it. It's not just about the composition of the components, such as which alloy is used. It's about the manner in which the components are made. Our research says the genetic code is important for determining both composition and fabrication rate for a central component of the circadian clock, and that the fabrication rate also is critical. And that's essentially a discovery."

The research was selected for Advanced Online Publication (AOP) in the prestigious journal "Nature."

The team, which is led by Yi Liu, a researcher in the Department of Physiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, was perplexed when it found a paradoxical result years ago: that optimizing the use of codons (a sequence of three nucleotides that form a unit of genetic code in a DNA or RNA molecule) specifying an essential biological clock component actually abolished the organism's circadian rhythms.