The period (per) gene is involved in regulating circadian rhythms in Drosophila melanogaster. The per gene is expressed in a circadian manner, where fluctuations in per mRNA abundance are influenced by its own translation product, which also cycles in abundance. Since per gene expression is necessary for circadian rhythmicity, we sought to determine how certain features of this feedback loop operate. The results of this study reveal that fluctuations in per mRNA are primarily controlled by fluctuations in per gene transcription, that per mRNA has a relatively short half-life, and that sequences sufficient to drive per mRNA cycling are present in 1.3 kilobases of 5' flanking sequences. These and other results indicate that the per feedback loop has all of the basic properties necessary to be a component of a circadian oscillator.