The period gene (per) of Drosophila melanogaster affects circadian rhythms. Circadian fluctuations in per mRNA levels are thought to contribute to circadian fluctuations in per protein levels in the heads of adult flies. To address the mechanisms underlying these oscillatory phenomena, we have analyzed RNA and protein cycling from two per-beta-galactosidase fusion genes. These studies demonstrate that 5' noncoding sequences from per are sufficient to cause the fusion mRNA levels to cycle in a wild-type (rhythmic) background. Protein cycling requires additional sequences derived from the per coding region. The data suggest that there is a per-dependent posttranscriptional mechanism that is under circadian clock control required for per protein levels to fluctuate in a rhythmic fashion.