Stability and lability of circadian period of gene expression in the cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus

Eugenia M. Clerico, Vincent M. Cassone, Susan S. Golden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Molecular aspects of the circadian clock in the cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus have been described in great detail. Three-dimensional structures have been determined for the three proteins, KaiA, KaiB and KaiC, that constitute a central oscillator of the clock. Moreover, a temperature-compensated circadian rhythm of KaiC phosphorylation can be reconstituted in vitro with the addition of KaiA, KaiB and ATP. These data suggest a relatively simple circadian system in which a single oscillator provides temporal information for all downstream processes. However, in vivo the situation is more complex, and additional components contribute to the maintenance of a normal period, the resetting of relative phases of circadian oscillations, and the control of rhythms of gene expression. We show here that two well-studied promoters in the S. elongatus genome report different circadian periods of expression under a given set of conditions in wildtype as well as mutant genetic backgrounds. Moreover, the period differs between these promoters with respect to modulation by light intensity, growth phase, and the presence or absence of a promoter-recognition subunit of RNA polymerase. These data contrast sharply with the current clock model in which a single Kai-based oscillator governs circadian period. Overall, these findings suggest that complex interactions among the circadian oscillator, perhaps other oscillators, and other cellular machinery result in a clock that is plastic and sensitive to the environment and to the physiological state of the cell.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)635-641
Number of pages7
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology


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