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Gene interactions control circadian clock in plants, study finds

COLUMBUS, Ohio New research identifies the molecular mechanisms that keep a plant's circadian clock running on a 24-hour schedule.

The study, reported this week in the journal Nature, is the first to describe the physical connection between two molecular components - genes called TOC1 and ZTL -- that keep a plant's "clock" running at the right speed. Scientists have spent more than a decade trying to understand the interactions between the components that regulate a plant's timing.

Knowing how those components interact might benefit agriculture, as the clock controls activities like flowering time in plants, said David Somers, a study co-author and an assistant professor of plant biology at Ohio State University.

"Understanding how the clock works on the molecular level means that we can begin to understand, and perhaps manipulate, when a plant flowers," he said. "One potential limitation to where plants can grow is day length some plants need more exposure to light than do others.

"If we could make a plant flower earlier in the growing season assuming that temperatures were warm enough we could possibly extend that plant's range into a region in which it normally had difficulty growing."

Somers conducted the study with Woe-Yoon Kim, a postdoctoral researcher in plant biotechnology at Ohio State, and Paloma Ms and Steve Kay, both with the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif.

The researchers conducted experiments on Arabidopsis thaliana, or thale cress plants. They looked at plants with normal TOC1 and ZTL genes and also at Arabidopsis plants with either a mutant TOC1 or ZTL gene. Observing changes in mutant strains gave the researchers information on each gene's involvement in regulating the circadian clock.

"We wanted to know what keeps a plant's circadian clock running at the right speed," Somers said.

A faulty TOC1 gene caused the plants to run on a faster schedule their circadian cloc
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Contact: David Somers
Somers.24@osu.edu
614-292-2551
Ohio State University
15-Dec-2003


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