The period gene (per) is required for Drosophila melanogaster to manifest circadian (congruent to 24 hr) rhythms. We report here that per protein (PER) undergoes daily oscillations in apparent molecular mass as well as abundance. The mobility changes are largely or exclusively due to multiple phosphorylation events. The temporal profile of the classic short-period form of PER (PERS) is altered in a manner consistent with the mutant strain's behavioral phenotype. As changes in abundance and phosphorylation persist under constant environmental conditions, they reflect or contribute to a free-running rhythm. We suggest that the phosphorylation status of PER is an important determinant in the Drosophila clock's time-keeping mechanism.