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Owing to the limited resources of the sensor nodes, energy-efficient routing mechanism becomes one of the most important technologies in wireless sensor networks. As an active branch of routing technology, cluster-based routing protocols excel in network topology management, energy minimization, data aggregation and so on. In this paper, cluster-based routing mechanisms for wireless sensor networks are analyzed. Cluster head selection, cluster formation and data transmission are three key techniques in cluster-based routing protocols. As viewed from the three techniques, recent important cluster-based routing protocols and algorithms are presented. Meanwhile, several representative cluster-based routing protocols are introduced, and their characteristics and performances are compared. Finally, the future research issues in this are pointed out.