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1.  Copper homeostasis influences the circadian clock in Arabidopsis 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2010;5(10):1237-1240.
Almost every aspect of plant physiology is influenced by diurnal and seasonal environmental cycles, which suggests that biochemical oscillations must be a pervasive phenomenon in the underlying molecular organization. The circadian clock is entrained by light and temperature cycles and controls a wide variety of endogenous processes that enable plants to anticipate the daily periodicity of environmental conditions. Several previous reports suggest a connection between copper (Cu) homeostasis and the circadian clock in different organisms other than plants. However, the nature of the Cu homeostasis influence on chronobiology remains elusive. Cytosolic Cu content could oscillate since Cu regulates its own transporters expression. We recently reported how the deregulation of Cu homeostasis in Arabidopsis transgenic plants affects the expression of two MYB transcription factors which are nuclear components of the circadian clock. In this addendum, we hypothesize the advantages that could be derived from the influence of metal homeostasis on plant circadian rhythms and their significance.
PMCID: PMC3115356  PMID: 20861682
Arabidopsis; circadian clock; copper transport; metal homeostasis
2.  Expression conservation within the circadian clock of a monocot: natural variation at barley Ppd-H1 affects circadian expression of flowering time genes, but not clock orthologs 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:97.
The circadian clock is an endogenous mechanism that coordinates biological processes with daily changes in the environment. In plants, circadian rhythms contribute to both agricultural productivity and evolutionary fitness. In barley, the photoperiod response regulator and flowering-time gene Ppd-H1 is orthologous to the Arabidopsis core-clock gene PRR7. However, relatively little is known about the role of Ppd-H1 and other components of the circadian clock in temperate crop species. In this study, we identified barley clock orthologs and tested the effects of natural genetic variation at Ppd-H1 on diurnal and circadian expression of clock and output genes from the photoperiod-response pathway.
Barley clock orthologs HvCCA1, HvGI, HvPRR1, HvPRR37 (Ppd-H1), HvPRR73, HvPRR59 and HvPRR95 showed a high level of sequence similarity and conservation of diurnal and circadian expression patterns, when compared to Arabidopsis. The natural mutation at Ppd-H1 did not affect diurnal or circadian cycling of barley clock genes. However, the Ppd-H1 mutant was found to be arrhythmic under free-running conditions for the photoperiod-response genes HvCO1, HvCO2, and the MADS-box transcription factor and vernalization responsive gene Vrn-H1.
We suggest that the described eudicot clock is largely conserved in the monocot barley. However, genetic differentiation within gene families and differences in the function of Ppd-H1 suggest evolutionary modification in the angiosperm clock. Our data indicates that natural variation at Ppd-H1 does not affect the expression level of clock genes, but controls photoperiodic output genes. Circadian control of Vrn-H1 in barley suggests that this vernalization responsive gene is also controlled by the photoperiod-response pathway. Structural and functional characterization of the barley circadian clock will set the basis for future studies of the adaptive significance of the circadian clock in Triticeae species.
PMCID: PMC3478166  PMID: 22720803
Hordeum vulgare; Circadian Clock; Photoperiod; Flowering; Ppd-H1
3.  Histone acetylation and the circadian clock 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2011;6(4):541-543.
Most organisms have developed an internal timing mechanism or circadian clock that is able to generate 24-hour biological rhythms in synchronization with the diurnal environmental changes. Despite our increasing understanding of the molecular machinery underlying circadian clock function, a complete picture of the components and regulatory mechanisms governing the circadian system in Arabidopsis thaliana is still lacking. In a recent study, we have characterized the role of the MYB-like transcription factor REVEILLE8/LHY-CCA1-LIKE5 (RVE8/LCL5) within the Arabidopsis circadian clock. We have generated RVE8/LCL5 mutant and overexpressing plants and showed that similar to the MYB-like transcription factor CIRCADIAN CLOCK-ASSOCIATED1 (CCA1), RVE8/LCL5 binds to the promoter of key clock component TOC1 (Timing of CAB expression 1) and regulates its circadian expression. However, the mechanisms of RVE8/LCL5 and CCA1 circadian function seem to differ: while CCA1 represses TOC1 expression by facilitating a hypo-acetylated state of Histone H3, RVE8/LCL5 contributes to TOC1 expression by favouring H3 acetylation at the TOC1 locus. Although CCA1 has a more predominant role on this regulation, our results showing the opposing function of RVE8/LCL5 open interesting questions about the complex networks of transcriptional regulators and chromatin remodelling activities that need to be integrated in synergistic and antagonistic ways to generate the circadian periodicity.
PMCID: PMC3142387  PMID: 21474993
Arabidopsis thaliana; circadian clock; transcriptional regulation; single MYB; histone acetylation
4.  Diurnal Oscillations of Soybean Circadian Clock and Drought Responsive Genes 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86402.
Rhythms produced by the endogenous circadian clock play a critical role in allowing plants to respond and adapt to the environment. While there is a well-established regulatory link between the circadian clock and responses to abiotic stress in model plants, little is known of the circadian system in crop species like soybean. This study examines how drought impacts diurnal oscillation of both drought responsive and circadian clock genes in soybean. Drought stress induced marked changes in gene expression of several circadian clock-like components, such as LCL1-, GmELF4- and PRR-like genes, which had reduced expression in stressed plants. The same conditions produced a phase advance of expression for the GmTOC1-like, GmLUX-like and GmPRR7-like genes. Similarly, the rhythmic expression pattern of the soybean drought-responsive genes DREB-, bZIP-, GOLS-, RAB18- and Remorin-like changed significantly after plant exposure to drought. In silico analysis of promoter regions of these genes revealed the presence of cis-elements associated both with stress and circadian clock regulation. Furthermore, some soybean genes with upstream ABRE elements were responsive to abscisic acid treatment. Our results indicate that some connection between the drought response and the circadian clock may exist in soybean since (i) drought stress affects gene expression of circadian clock components and (ii) several stress responsive genes display diurnal oscillation in soybeans.
PMCID: PMC3903518  PMID: 24475115
5.  Diurnal and Circadian Rhythms in the Tomato Transcriptome and Their Modulation by Cryptochrome Photoreceptors 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(7):e2798.
Circadian clocks are internal molecular time-keeping mechanisms that provide living organisms with the ability to adjust their growth and physiology and to anticipate diurnal environmental changes. Circadian clocks, without exception, respond to light and, in plants, light is the most potent and best characterized entraining stimulus. The capacity of plants to respond to light is achieved through a number of photo-perceptive proteins including cryptochromes and phytochromes. There is considerable experimental evidence demonstrating the roles of photoreceptors in providing light input to the clock.
In order to identify genes regulated by diurnal and circadian rhythms, and to establish possible functional relations between photoreceptors and the circadian clock in tomato, we monitored the temporal transcription pattern in plants entrained to long-day conditions, either by large scale comparative profiling, or using a focused approach over a number of photosensory and clock-related genes by QRT-PCR. In parallel, focused transcription analyses were performed in cry1a- and in CRY2-OX tomato genotypes.
We report a large series of transcript oscillations that shed light on the complex network of interactions among tomato photoreceptors and clock-related genes. Alteration of cryptochrome gene expression induced major changes in the rhythmic oscillations of several other gene transcripts. In particular, over-expression of CRY2 had an impact not only on day/night fluctuations but also on rhythmicity under constant light conditions. Evidence was found for widespread diurnal oscillations of transcripts encoding specific enzyme classes (e.g. carotenoid biosynthesis enzymes) as well as for post-transcriptional diurnal and circadian regulation of the CRY2 transcript.
PMCID: PMC2474677  PMID: 18665253
6.  Modeling the Effects of Cell Cycle M-phase Transcriptional Inhibition on Circadian Oscillation 
PLoS Computational Biology  2008;4(3):e1000019.
Circadian clocks are endogenous time-keeping systems that temporally organize biological processes. Gating of cell cycle events by a circadian clock is a universal observation that is currently considered a mechanism serving to protect DNA from diurnal exposure to ultraviolet radiation or other mutagens. In this study, we put forward another possibility: that such gating helps to insulate the circadian clock from perturbations induced by transcriptional inhibition during the M phase of the cell cycle. We introduced a periodic pulse of transcriptional inhibition into a previously published mammalian circadian model and simulated the behavior of the modified model under both constant darkness and light–dark cycle conditions. The simulation results under constant darkness indicated that periodic transcriptional inhibition could entrain/lock the circadian clock just as a light–dark cycle does. At equilibrium states, a transcriptional inhibition pulse of certain periods was always locked close to certain circadian phases where inhibition on Per and Bmal1 mRNA synthesis was most balanced. In a light–dark cycle condition, inhibitions imposed at different parts of a circadian period induced different degrees of perturbation to the circadian clock. When imposed at the middle- or late-night phase, the transcriptional inhibition cycle induced the least perturbations to the circadian clock. The late-night time window of least perturbation overlapped with the experimentally observed time window, where mitosis is most frequent. This supports our hypothesis that the circadian clock gates the cell cycle M phase to certain circadian phases to minimize perturbations induced by the latter. This study reveals the hidden effects of the cell division cycle on the circadian clock and, together with the current picture of genome stability maintenance by circadian gating of cell cycle, provides a more comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon of circading gating of cell cycle.
Author Summary
Circadian clock and cell cycle are two important biological processes that are essential for nearly all eukaryotes. The circadian clock governs day and night 24 h periodic molecular processes and physiological behaviors, while cell cycle controls cell division process. It has been widely observed that cell division does not occur randomly across day and night, but instead is normally confined to specific times during day and night. These observations suggest that cell cycle events are gated by the circadian clock. Regarding the biological benefit and rationale for this intriguing gating phenomena, it has been postulated that circadian gating helps to maintain genome stability by confining radiation-sensitive cell cycle phases to night. Bearing in mind the facts that global transcriptional inhibition occurs at cell division and transcriptional inhibition shifts circadian phases and periods, we postulate that confining cell division to specific circadian times benefits the circadian clock by removing or minimizing the side effects of cell division on the circadian clock. Our results based on computational simulation in this study show that periodic transcriptional inhibition can perturb the circadian clock by altering circadian phases and periods, and the magnitude of the perturbation is clearly circadian phase dependent. Specifically, transcriptional inhibition initiated at certain circadian phases induced minimal perturbation to the circadian clock. These results provide support for our postulation. Our postulation and results point to the importance of the effect of cell division on the circadian clock in the interaction between circadian and cell cycle and suggest that it should be considered together with other factors in the exploitation of circadian cell cycle interaction, especially the phenomena of circadian gating of cell cycle.
PMCID: PMC2267494  PMID: 18369419
7.  The two α-dox genes of Nicotiana attenuata: overlapping but distinct functions in development and stress responses 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:171.
Plant fatty acid α-dioxygenases (α-DOX) are oxylipin-forming enzymes induced by biotic and abiotic stresses, which also participate in developmental processes. In Nicotiana attenuata, herbivory strongly induces the expression of an α-dox1 gene. To determine its role, we silenced its expression using Agrobacterium-mediated plant transformation with an inverted repeat construct. More than half of the transformed lines showed a severe dwarf growth phenotype that was very similar to the phenotype of tomato plants mutated at a second α-dox isoform. This led us to identify the corresponding α-dox2 gene in N. attenuata and examine the regulation of both α-dox genes as well as the consequences of their silencing in plant development and anti-herbivore defense.
The transformed lines exhibiting a dwarf growth phenotype are co-silenced for both α-dox genes resulting in a nearly complete suppression of α-DOX activity, which is associated with increases in ABA, JA and anthocyanin levels, all metabolic signatures of oxidative stress. The other lines, only silenced for α-dox1, developed similarly to wild-type plants, exhibited a 40% reduction of α-DOX activity resulting in a 50% reduction of its main product in planta (2-HOT) and showed no signs of oxidative stress. In contrast to α-dox1, the expression of α-dox2 gene is not induced by wounding or elicitors in the oral secretions of Manduca sexta. Instead, α-dox2 is expressed in roots and flowers which lack α-dox1 expression, but both genes are equally regulated during leaf maturation. We transiently silenced α-dox gene copies with gene-specific constructs using virus induced gene silencing and determined the consequences for plant development and phytohormone and 2-HOT levels. While individual silencing of α-dox1 or α-dox2 had no effects on plant growth, the co-suppression of both α-dox genes decreased plant growth. Plants transiently silenced for both α-dox genes had increased constitutive levels of JA and ABA but silencing α-dox1 alone resulted in lower M. sexta-induced levels of JA, 2-HOT and ABA.
Thus, both α-dox isoforms function in the development of N. attenuata. In leaf maturation, the two α-dox genes have overlapping functions, but only α-dox2 is involved in root and flower development and only α-dox1 functions in anti-herbivore defense.
PMCID: PMC3017789  PMID: 20701756
8.  AMPK Regulates the Circadian Clock by Cryptochrome Phosphorylation and Degradation 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2009;326(5951):437-440.
Circadian clocks coordinate behavioral and physiological processes with daily light-dark cycles by driving rhythmic transcription of thousands of genes. Whereas the master clock in the brain is set by light, pacemakers in peripheral organs, such as the liver, are reset by food availability, although the setting, or “entrainment,” mechanisms remain mysterious. Studying mouse fibroblasts, we demonstrated that the nutrient-responsive adenosine monophosphate–activated protein kinase (AMPK) phosphorylates and destabilizes the clock component cryptochrome 1 (CRY1). In mouse livers, AMPK activity and nuclear localization were rhythmic and inversely correlated with CRY1 nuclear protein abundance. Stimulation of AMPK destabilized cryptochromes and altered circadian rhythms, and mice in which the AMPK pathway was genetically disrupted showed alterations in peripheral clocks. Thus, phosphorylation by AMPK enables cryptochrome to transduce nutrient signals to circadian clocks in mammalian peripheral organs.
PMCID: PMC2819106  PMID: 19833968
9.  Phylogenetic footprint of the plant clock system in angiosperms: evolutionary processes of Pseudo-Response Regulators 
Plant circadian clocks regulate many photoperiodic and diurnal responses that are conserved among plant species. The plant circadian clock system has been uncovered in the model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, using genetics and systems biology approaches. However, it is still not clear how the clock system had been organized in the evolutionary history of plants. We recently revealed the molecular phylogeny of LHY/CCA1 genes, one of the essential components of the clock system. The aims of this study are to reconstruct the phylogenetic relationships of angiosperm clock-associated PRR genes, the partner of the LHY/CCA1 genes, and to clarify the evolutionary history of the plant clock system in angiosperm lineages.
In the present study, to investigate the molecular phylogeny of PRR genes, we performed two approaches: reconstruction of phylogenetic trees and examination of syntenic relationships. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that PRR genes had diverged into three clades prior to the speciation of monocots and eudicots. Furthermore, copy numbers of PRR genes have been independently increased in monocots and eudicots as a result of ancient chromosomal duplication events.
Based on the molecular phylogenies of both PRR genes and LHY/CCA1 genes, we inferred the evolutionary process of the plant clock system in angiosperms. This scenario provides evolutionary information that a common ancestor of monocots and eudicots had retained the basic components required for reconstructing a clock system and that the plant circadian clock may have become a more elaborate mechanism after the speciation of monocots and eudicots because of the gene expansion that resulted from polyploidy events.
PMCID: PMC2887406  PMID: 20433765
10.  A Jasmonate ZIM-Domain Protein NaJAZd Regulates Floral Jasmonic Acid Levels and Counteracts Flower Abscission in Nicotiana attenuata Plants 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e57868.
Jasmonic acid is an important regulator of plant growth, development and defense. The jasmonate-ZIM domain (JAZ) proteins are key regulators in jasmonate signaling ubiquitously present in flowering plants but their functional annotation remains largely incomplete. Recently, we identified 12 putative JAZ proteins in native tobacco, Nicotiana attenuata, and initiated systematic functional characterization of these proteins by reverse genetic approaches. In this report, Nicotiana attenuata plants silenced in the expression of NaJAZd (irJAZd) by RNA interference were used to characterize NaJAZd function. Although NaJAZd transcripts were strongly and transiently up-regulated in the rosette leaves by simulated herbivory treatment, we did not observe strong defense-related phenotypes, such as altered herbivore performance or the constitutive accumulation of defense-related secondary metabolites in irJAZd plants compared to wild type plants, both in the glasshouse and the native habitat of Nicotiana attenuata in the Great Basin Desert, Utah, USA. Interestingly, irJAZd plants produced fewer seed capsules than did wild type plants as a result of increased flower abscission in later stages of flower development. The early- and mid-developmental stages of irJAZd flowers had reduced levels of jasmonic acid and jasmonoyl-L-isoleucine, while fully open flowers had normal levels, but these were impaired in NaMYB305 transcript accumulations. Previously, NaMYB305-silenced plants were shown to have strong flower abscission phenotypes and contained lower NECTARIN 1 transcript levels, phenotypes which are copied in irJAZd plants. We propose that the NaJAZd protein is required to counteract flower abscission, possibly by regulating jasmonic acid and jasmonoyl-L-isoleucine levels and/or expression of NaMYB305 gene in Nicotiana attenuata flowers. This novel insight into the function of JAZ proteins in flower and seed development highlights the diversity of functions played by jasmonates and JAZ proteins.
PMCID: PMC3585257  PMID: 23469091
11.  Natural variation in floral nectar proteins of two Nicotiana attenuata accessions 
BMC Plant Biology  2013;13:101.
Floral nectar (FN) contains not only energy-rich compounds to attract pollinators, but also defense chemicals and several proteins. However, proteomic analysis of FN has been hampered by the lack of publically available sequence information from nectar-producing plants. Here we used next-generation sequencing and advanced proteomics to profile FN proteins in the opportunistic outcrossing wild tobacco, Nicotiana attenuata.
We constructed a transcriptome database of N. attenuata and characterized its nectar proteome using LC-MS/MS. The FN proteins of N. attenuata included nectarins, sugar-cleaving enzymes (glucosidase, galactosidase, and xylosidase), RNases, pathogen-related proteins, and lipid transfer proteins. Natural variation in FN proteins of eleven N. attenuata accessions revealed a negative relationship between the accumulation of two abundant proteins, nectarin1b and nectarin5. In addition, microarray analysis of nectary tissues revealed that protein accumulation in FN is not simply correlated with the accumulation of transcripts encoding FN proteins and identified a group of genes that were specifically expressed in the nectary.
Natural variation of identified FN proteins in the ecological model plant N. attenuata suggests that nectar chemistry may have a complex function in plant-pollinator-microbe interactions.
PMCID: PMC3728157  PMID: 23848992
LC-MS/MS; Nectar protein; Nectarin; Nicotiana attenuata
12.  A Morning-Specific Phytohormone Gene Expression Program underlying Rhythmic Plant Growth 
PLoS Biology  2008;6(9):e225.
Most organisms use daily light/dark cycles as timing cues to control many essential physiological processes. In plants, growth rates of the embryonic stem (hypocotyl) are maximal at different times of day, depending on external photoperiod and the internal circadian clock. However, the interactions between light signaling, the circadian clock, and growth-promoting hormone pathways in growth control remain poorly understood. At the molecular level, such growth rhythms could be attributed to several different layers of time-specific control such as phasing of transcription, signaling, or protein abundance. To determine the transcriptional component associated with the rhythmic control of growth, we applied temporal analysis of the Arabidopsis thaliana seedling transcriptome under multiple growth conditions and mutant backgrounds using DNA microarrays. We show that a group of plant hormone-associated genes are coexpressed at the time of day when hypocotyl growth rate is maximal. This expression correlates with overrepresentation of a cis-acting element (CACATG) in phytohormone gene promoters, which is sufficient to confer the predicted diurnal and circadian expression patterns in vivo. Using circadian clock and light signaling mutants, we show that both internal coincidence of phytohormone signaling capacity and external coincidence with darkness are required to coordinate wild-type growth. From these data, we argue that the circadian clock indirectly controls growth by permissive gating of light-mediated phytohormone transcript levels to the proper time of day. This temporal integration of hormone pathways allows plants to fine tune phytohormone responses for seasonal and shade-appropriate growth regulation.
Author Summary
In plants, stems elongate faster at dawn. This time-of-day–specific growth is controlled by integration of environmental cues and the circadian clock. The specific effectors of growth in plants are the phytohormones: auxin, ethylene, gibberellins, abscisic acid, brassinosteroids, and cytokinins. Each phytohormone plays an independent as well as an overlapping role in growth, and understanding the interactions of the phytohormones has dominated plant research over the past century. The authors present a model in which the circadian clock coordinates growth by synchronizing phytohormone gene expression at dawn, allowing a plant to control growth in a condition-specific manner. Furthermore, the results presented provide a new framework for future experiments aimed at understanding the integration and crosstalk of the phytohormones.
Why do plants grow faster at dawn? New results suggest that light and the circadian clock coordinate growth by synchronizing the expression of plant hormone genes at dawn.
PMCID: PMC2535664  PMID: 18798691
13.  Global transcriptome analysis reveals circadian regulation of key pathways in plant growth and development 
Genome Biology  2008;9(8):R130.
Transcript abundance of roughly a third of expressed Arabidopsis thaliana genes is circadian-regulated.
As nonmotile organisms, plants must rapidly adapt to ever-changing environmental conditions, including those caused by daily light/dark cycles. One important mechanism for anticipating and preparing for such predictable changes is the circadian clock. Nearly all organisms have circadian oscillators that, when they are in phase with the Earth's rotation, provide a competitive advantage. In order to understand how circadian clocks benefit plants, it is necessary to identify the pathways and processes that are clock controlled.
We have integrated information from multiple circadian microarray experiments performed on Arabidopsis thaliana in order to better estimate the fraction of the plant transcriptome that is circadian regulated. Analyzing the promoters of clock-controlled genes, we identified circadian clock regulatory elements correlated with phase-specific transcript accumulation. We have also identified several physiological pathways enriched for clock-regulated changes in transcript abundance, suggesting they may be modulated by the circadian clock.
Our analysis suggests that transcript abundance of roughly one-third of expressed A. thaliana genes is circadian regulated. We found four promoter elements, enriched in the promoters of genes with four discrete phases, which may contribute to the time-of-day specific changes in the transcript abundance of these genes. Clock-regulated genes are over-represented among all of the classical plant hormone and multiple stress response pathways, suggesting that all of these pathways are influenced by the circadian clock. Further exploration of the links between the clock and these pathways will lead to a better understanding of how the circadian clock affects plant growth and leads to improved fitness.
PMCID: PMC2575520  PMID: 18710561
14.  Molecular Mechanisms Underlying the Arabidopsis Circadian Clock 
Plant and Cell Physiology  2011;52(10):1709-1718.
A wide range of biological processes exhibit circadian rhythm, enabling plants to adapt to the environmental day–night cycle. This rhythm is generated by the so-called ‘circadian clock’. Although a number of genetic approaches have identified >25 clock-associated genes involved in the Arabidopsis clock mechanism, the molecular functions of a large part of these genes are not known. Recent comprehensive studies have revealed the molecular functions of several key clock-associated proteins. This progress has provided mechanistic insights into how key clock-associated proteins are integrated, and may help in understanding the essence of the clock's molecular mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3189347  PMID: 21873329
Arabidopsis thaliana; Circadian clock; Genetic circuit; Protein function
15.  Systematic Identification of Rhythmic Genes Reveals camk1gb as a New Element in the Circadian Clockwork 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(12):e1003116.
A wide variety of biochemical, physiological, and molecular processes are known to have daily rhythms driven by an endogenous circadian clock. While extensive research has greatly improved our understanding of the molecular mechanisms that constitute the circadian clock, the links between this clock and dependent processes have remained elusive. To address this gap in our knowledge, we have used RNA sequencing (RNA–seq) and DNA microarrays to systematically identify clock-controlled genes in the zebrafish pineal gland. In addition to a comprehensive view of the expression pattern of known clock components within this master clock tissue, this approach has revealed novel potential elements of the circadian timing system. We have implicated one rhythmically expressed gene, camk1gb, in connecting the clock with downstream physiology of the pineal gland. Remarkably, knockdown of camk1gb disrupts locomotor activity in the whole larva, even though it is predominantly expressed within the pineal gland. Therefore, it appears that camk1gb plays a role in linking the pineal master clock with the periphery.
Author Summary
The circadian clock is a molecular pacemaker that drives rhythmic expression of genes with a ∼24-hour period. As a result, many physiological processes have daily rhythms. Many of the conserved elements that constitute the circadian clock are known, but the links between the clock and dependent processes have remained elusive. With its amenability to genetic manipulations and a variety of genetic tools, the zebrafish has become an attractive vertebrate model for the quest to identify and characterize novel clock components. Here, we take advantage of another attraction of the zebrafish, the fact that its pineal gland is the site of a central clock which directly receives light input and autonomously generates circadian rhythms that affect the physiology of the whole organism. We show that the systematic design and analysis of genome-wide experiments based on the zebrafish pineal gland can lead to the discovery of new clock elements. We have characterized one novel element, camk1gb, and show that this gene, predominantly expressed within the pineal gland and driven by the circadian clock, links circadian clock timing with locomotor activity in zebrafish larvae.
PMCID: PMC3527293  PMID: 23284293
16.  Postnatal ontogenesis of clock genes in mouse suprachiasmatic nucleus and heart 
The master clock within the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) synchronizing clocks in peripheral tissues is entrained by the environmental condition, such as the light-dark (LD) cycle. The mechanisms of circadian clockwork are similar in both SCN and peripheral tissues. The aim of the present work was to observe the profiles of clock genes expression in mouse central and peripheral tissues within postnatal day 5 (P5). The daily expression of four clock genes mRNA (Bmal1, Per2, Cry1 and Rev-erb alpha) in mouse SCN and heart was measured at P1, P3 and P5 by real-time PCR.
All the studied mice clock genes began to express in a circadian rhythms manner in heart and SCN at P3 and P5 respectively. Interestingly, the daily rhythmic phase of some clock genes shifted during the postnatal days. Moreover, the expressions of clock genes in heart were not synchronized with those in SCN until at P5.
The data showed the gradual development of clock genes in SCN and a peripheral tissue, and suggested that development of clock genes differed between in the SCN and the heart. Judging from the mRNA expression, it was possible that the central clock synchronized the peripheral clock as early as P5.
PMCID: PMC2848141  PMID: 20202222
17.  Quantitative analysis of regulatory flexibility under changing environmental conditions 
Day length changes with the seasons in temperate latitudes, affecting the many biological rhythms that entrain to the day/night cycle: we measure these effects on the expression of Arabidopsis clock genes, using RNA and reporter gene readouts, with a new method of phase analysis.Dusk sensitivity is proposed as a simple, natural and general mathematical measure to analyse and manipulate the changing phase of a clock output relative to the change in the day/night cycle.Dusk sensitivity shows how increasing the numbers of feedback loops in the Arabidopsis clock models allows more flexible regulation, consistent with a previously-proposed, general operating principle of biological networks.The Arabidopsis clock genes show flexibility of regulation that is characteristic of a three-loop clock model, validating aspects of the model and the operating principle, but some clock output genes show greater flexibility arising from direct light regulation.
The analysis of dynamic, non-linear regulation with the aid of mechanistic models is central to Systems Biology. This study compares the predictions of mechanistic, mathematical models of the circadian clock with molecular time-series data on rhythmic gene expression in the higher plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Analysis of the models helps us to understand (explain and predict) how the clock gene circuit balances regulation by external and endogenous factors to achieve particular behaviours. Such multi-factorial regulation is ubiquitous in, and characteristic of, living systems.
The Earth's rotation causes predictable changes in the environment, notably in the availability of sunlight for photosynthesis. Many biological processes are driven by the environmental input via sensory pathways, for example, from photoreceptors. Circadian clocks provide an alternative strategy. These endogenous, 24-h rhythms can drive biological processes that anticipate the regular environmental changes, rather than merely responding. Many rhythmic processes have both light and clock control. Indeed, the clock components themselves must balance internal timing with external inputs, because circadian clocks are reset daily through light regulation of one or more clock components. This process of entrainment is complicated by the change in day length. When the times of dawn and dusk move apart in summer, and closer together in winter, does the clock track dawn, track dusk or interpolate between them?
In plants, the clock controls leaf and petal movements, the opening and closing of stomatal pores, the discharge of floral fragrances, and many metabolic activities, especially those associated with photosynthesis. Centuries of physiological studies have shown that these rhythms can behave differently. Flowering in Ipomoea nil (Pharbitis nil, Japanese morning glory) is controlled by a rhythm that tracks the time of dusk, to give a classic example. We showed that two other rhythms associated with vegetative growth track dawn in this species (Figure 5A), so the clock system allows flexible regulation.
The relatively small number of components involved in the circadian clockwork makes it an ideal candidate for mathematical modelling. Molecular genetic studies in a variety of model eukaryotes have shown that the circadian rhythm is generated by a network of 6–20 genes. These genes form feedback loops generating a rhythm in mRNA production. A single negative feedback loop in which a gene encodes a protein that, after several hours, turns off transcription is capable of generating a circadian rhythm, in principle. A single light input can entrain the clock to ‘local time', synchronised with a light–dark cycle. However, real circadian clocks have proven to be more complicated than this, with multiple light inputs and interlocked feedback loops.
We have previously argued from mathematical analysis that multi-loop networks increase the flexibility of regulation (Rand et al, 2004) and have shown that appropriately deployed flexibility can confer functional robustness (Akman et al, 2010). Here we test whether that flexibility can be demonstrated in vivo, in the model plant, A. thaliana. The Arabidopsis clock mechanism comprises a feedback loop in which two partially redundant, myb transcription factors, LATE ELONGATED HYPOCOTYL (LHY) and CIRCADIAN CLOCK ASSOCIATED 1 (CCA1), repress the expression of their activator, TIMING OF CAB EXPRESSION 1 (TOC1). We previously modelled this single-loop circuit and showed that it was not capable of recreating important data (Locke et al, 2005a). An extended, two-loop model was developed to match observed behaviours, incorporating a hypothetical gene Y, for which the best identified candidate was the GIGANTEA gene (GI) (Locke et al, 2005b). Two further models incorporated the TOC1 homologues PSEUDO-RESPONSE REGULATOR (PRR) 9 and PRR7 (Locke et al, 2006; Zeilinger et al, 2006). In these circuits, a morning oscillator (LHY/CCA1–PRR9/7) is coupled to an evening oscillator (Y/GI–TOC1) via the original LHY/CCA1–TOC1 loop.
These clock models, like those for all other organisms, were developed using data from simple conditions of constant light, darkness or 12-h light–12-h dark cycles. We therefore tested how the clock genes in Arabidopsis responded to light–dark cycles with different photoperiods, from 3 h light to 18 h light per 24-h cycle (Edinburgh, 56° North latitude, has 17.5 h light in midsummer). The time-series assays of mRNA and in vivo reporter gene images showed a range of peak times for different genes, depending on the photoperiod (Figure 5C). A new data analysis method, mFourfit, was introduced to measure the peak times, in the Biological Rhythms Analysis Software Suite (BRASS v3.0). None of the genes showed the dusk-tracking behaviour characteristic of the Ipomoea flowering rhythm. The one-, two- and three-loop models were analysed to understand the observed patterns. A new mathematical measure, dusk sensitivity, was introduced to measure the change in timing of a model component versus a change in the time of dusk. The one- and two-loop models tracked dawn and dusk, respectively, under all conditions. Only the three-loop model (Figure 5B) had the flexibility required to match the photoperiod-dependent changes that we found in vivo, and in particular the unexpected, V-shaped pattern in the peak time of TOC1 expression. This pattern of regulation depends on the structure and light inputs to the model's evening oscillator, so the in vivo data supported this aspect of the model. LHY and CCA1 gene expression under short photoperiods showed greater dusk sensitivity, in the interval 2–6 h before dawn, than the three-loop model predicted, so these data will help to constrain future models.
The approach described here could act as a template for experimental biologists seeking to understand biological regulation using dynamic, experimental perturbations and time-series data. Simulation of mathematical models (despite known imperfections) can provide contrasting hypotheses that guide understanding. The system's detailed behaviour is complex, so a natural and general measure such as dusk sensitivity is helpful to focus on one property of the system. We used the measure to compare models, and to predict how this property could be manipulated. To enable additional analysis of this system, we provide the time-series data and experimental metadata online.
The circadian clock controls 24-h rhythms in many biological processes, allowing appropriate timing of biological rhythms relative to dawn and dusk. Known clock circuits include multiple, interlocked feedback loops. Theory suggested that multiple loops contribute the flexibility for molecular rhythms to track multiple phases of the external cycle. Clear dawn- and dusk-tracking rhythms illustrate the flexibility of timing in Ipomoea nil. Molecular clock components in Arabidopsis thaliana showed complex, photoperiod-dependent regulation, which was analysed by comparison with three contrasting models. A simple, quantitative measure, Dusk Sensitivity, was introduced to compare the behaviour of clock models with varying loop complexity. Evening-expressed clock genes showed photoperiod-dependent dusk sensitivity, as predicted by the three-loop model, whereas the one- and two-loop models tracked dawn and dusk, respectively. Output genes for starch degradation achieved dusk-tracking expression through light regulation, rather than a dusk-tracking rhythm. Model analysis predicted which biochemical processes could be manipulated to extend dusk tracking. Our results reveal how an operating principle of biological regulators applies specifically to the plant circadian clock.
PMCID: PMC3010117  PMID: 21045818
Arabidopsis thaliana; biological clocks; dynamical systems; gene regulatory networks; mathematical models; photoperiodism
18.  Arabidopsis circadian clock and photoperiodism: time to think about location 
Summary of recent advances
Plants possess a circadian clock that enables them to coordinate internal biological events with external daily changes. Recent studies in Arabidopsis revealed that tissue specific clock components exist and that the clock network architecture also varies within different organs. These findings indicate that the makeup of circadian clock(s) within a plant is quite variable. Plants utilize the circadian clock to measure day-length changes for regulating seasonal responses, such as flowering. To ensure that flowering occurs under optimum conditions, the clock regulates diurnal CONSTANS (CO) expression. Subsequently, CO protein induces FLOWERING LOCUS T (FT) expression which leads to flowering. It is emerging that both CO and FT expression are intricately controlled by groups of transcription factors with overlapping functions.
PMCID: PMC2818179  PMID: 19836294
19.  Picking out parallels: plant circadian clocks in context. 
Molecular models have been described for the circadian clocks of representatives of several different taxa. Much of the work on the plant circadian system has been carried out using the thale cress, Arabidopsis thaliana, as a model. We discuss the roles of genes implicated in the plant circadian system, with special emphasis on Arabidopsis. Plants have an endogenous clock that regulates many aspects of circadian and photoperiodic behaviour. Despite the discovery of components that resemble those involved in the clocks of animals or fungi, no coherent model of the plant clock has yet been proposed. In this review, we aim to provide an overview of studies of the Arabidopsis circadian system. We shall compare these with results from different taxa and discuss them in the context of what is known about clocks in other organisms.
PMCID: PMC1088549  PMID: 11710980
20.  Abiotic stress and the plant circadian clock 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2011;6(2):223-231.
In this review, we focus on the interaction between the circadian clock of higher plants to that of metabolic and physiological processes that coordinate growth and performance under a predictable, albeit changing environment. In this, the phytochrome and cryptochrome photoreceptors have shown to be important, but not essential for oscillator control under diurnal cycles of light and dark. From this foundation, we will examine how emerging findings have firmly linked the circadian clock, as a central mediator in the coordination of metabolism, to maintain homeostasis. This occurs by oscillator synchronization of global transcription, which leads to a dynamic control of a host of physiological processes. These include the determination of the levels of primary and secondary metabolites, and the anticipation of future environmental stresses, such as mid-day drought and midnight coldness. Interestingly, metabolic and stress cues themselves appear to feedback on oscillator function. In such a way, the circadian clock of plants and abiotic-stress tolerance appear to be firmly interconnected processes.
PMCID: PMC3121982  PMID: 21325898
circadian clock; Arabidopsis; abiotic stress; metabolism
21.  Network balance via CRY signalling controls the Arabidopsis circadian clock over ambient temperatures 
Temperature compensation of the Arabidopsis circadian clock is shown to be mediated by the interaction of light and temperature at the level of the crytochrome photoreceptors. These findings reveal that light and temperature share common input mechanisms to the circadian network.
We provide evidence that blue light signalling via the cryptochromes is important for the temperature-dependent control of circadian period in plants.Light and temperature converge upon common targets in the circadian network.We have constructed a temperature-compensated model of the plant circadian clock by adding a temperature effect to a subset of light-sensitive processes.The model matches experimental data and predicted a temperature-dependent change in the protein level of a key clock gene.
Circadian clocks exhibit ‘temperature compensation', meaning that they show only small changes in period over a broad temperature range. Several clock genes have been implicated in the temperature-dependent control of period in Arabidopsis. We show that blue light is essential for this, suggesting that the effects of light and temperature interact or converge upon common targets in the circadian clock. Our data demonstrate that two cryptochrome photoreceptors differentially control circadian period and sustain rhythmicity across the physiological temperature range. In order to test the hypothesis that the targets of light regulation are sufficient to mediate temperature compensation, we constructed a temperature-compensated clock model by adding passive temperature effects into only the light-sensitive processes in the model. Remarkably, this model was not only capable of full temperature compensation and consistent with mRNA profiles across a temperature range, but also predicted the temperature-dependent change in the level of LATE ELONGATED HYPOCOTYL, a key clock protein. Our analysis provides a systems-level understanding of period control in the plant circadian oscillator.
PMCID: PMC3619941  PMID: 23511208
circadian rhythm; genetic network; mathematical model; systems biology
22.  Similarities in the circadian clock and photoperiodism in plants 
Current opinion in plant biology  2010;13(5):594-603.
Summary of recent advances
Plants utilize circadian clocks to synchronize their physiological and developmental events with daily and yearly changes in the environment. Recent advances in Arabidopsis research have provided a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms of the circadian clock and photoperiodism. One of the most important questions is whether the mechanisms studied in Arabidopsis are conserved in other plants. Homologs of many Arabidopsis clock genes have been identified in various plants and some gene functions have been characterized. It seems that the circadian clocks in plants are similar. Recent success in molecular genetics has also revealed the mechanisms of photoperiodic flowering in cereals. The day-length sensing mechanisms appear to have diverged more between long-day plants and short-day plants than the circadian clock.
PMCID: PMC2965781  PMID: 20620097
23.  Protein Phosphatase 1 (PP1) Is a Post-Translational Regulator of the Mammalian Circadian Clock 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e21325.
Circadian clocks coordinate the timing of important biological processes. Interconnected transcriptional and post-translational feedback loops based on a set of clock genes generate and maintain these rhythms with a period of about 24 hours. Many clock proteins undergo circadian cycles of post-translational modifications. Among these modifications, protein phosphorylation plays an important role in regulating activity, stability and intracellular localization of clock components. Several protein kinases were characterized as regulators of the circadian clock. However, the function of protein phosphatases, which balance phosphorylation events, in the mammalian clock mechanism is less well understood. Here, we identify protein phosphatase 1 (PP1) as regulator of period and light-induced resetting of the mammalian circadian clock. Down-regulation of PP1 activity in cells by RNA interference and in vivo by expression of a specific inhibitor in the brain of mice tended to lengthen circadian period. Moreover, reduction of PP1 activity in the brain altered light-mediated clock resetting behavior in mice, enhancing the phase shifts in either direction. At the molecular level, diminished PP1 activity increased nuclear accumulation of the clock component PER2 in neurons. Hence, PP1, may reduce PER2 phosphorylation thereby influencing nuclear localization of this protein. This may at least partially influence period and phase shifting properties of the mammalian circadian clock.
PMCID: PMC3119686  PMID: 21712997
24.  Molecular Clocks in Pharmacology 
Circadian rhythms regulate a vast array of biological processes and play a fundamental role in mammalian physiology. As a result, considerable diurnal variation in the pharmacokinetics, efficacy, and side effect profiles of many therapeutics has been described. This variation has subsequently been tied to diurnal rhythms in absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion, as well as in pharmacodynamic variables, such as target expression. More recently, the molecular basis of circadian rhythmicity has been elucidated with the identification of clock genes, which oscillate in a circadian manner in most cells and tissues and regulate transcription of large sets of genes. Ongoing research efforts are beginning to reveal the critical role of circadian clock genes in the regulation of pharmacologic parameters, as well as the reciprocal impact of drugs on circadian clock function. This chapter will review the role of circadian clocks in the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of drug response, and provide several examples of the complex regulation of pharmacologic systems by components of the molecular circadian clock.
PMCID: PMC3684693  PMID: 23604482
circadian clock; pharmacology; pharmacokinetics; pharmacodynamics; CLOCK; Bmal1
25.  Diverting the Flux of the JA Pathway in Nicotiana attenuata Compromises the Plant's Defense Metabolism and Fitness in Nature and Glasshouse 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e25925.
A plant's inducible defenses against herbivores as well as certain developmental processes are known to be controlled by the jasmonic acid (JA) pathway. We have previously shown that ectopically expressing Arabidopsis thaliana JA O-methyltransferase in Nicotiana attenuata (35S-jmt) strongly reduces the herbivory-elicited jasmonate bursts by acting as metabolic sink that redirects free JA towards methylation; here we examine the consequences of this metabolic sink on N. attenuata's secondary metabolism and performance in nature. In the glasshouse, 35S-jmt plants produced fewer seed capsules due to shorter floral styles, which could be restored to wild type (WT) levels after hand-pollination, and were more susceptible to Manduca sexta larvae attack. When transplanted into the Great Basin Desert in Utah, 35S-jmt plants grew as well as WT empty vector, but were highly attacked by native herbivores of different feeding guilds: leaf chewers, miners, and single cell feeders. This greater susceptibility was strongly associated with reduced emissions of volatile organic compounds (hexenylesters, monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes) and profound alterations in the production of direct defenses (trypsin proteinase inhibitors [TPI], nicotine, diterpene glycosides [DTGs] and phenylpropanoid-polyamine conjugates) as revealed by a combination of targeted and metabolomics analyses of field collected samples. Complementation experiments with JA-Ile, whose formation is outcompeted in 35S-jmt plants by the methylation reaction, restored the local TPI activation to WT levels and partially complemented nicotine and DTG levels in elicited but not systemic leaves. These findings demonstrate that MeJA, the major JA metabolite in 35S-jmt plants, is not an active signal in defense activation and highlights the value of creating JA sinks to disrupt JA signaling, without interrupting the complete octadecanoid pathway, in order to investigate the regulation of plants' defense metabolism in nature.
PMCID: PMC3189938  PMID: 22022469

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