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Gene interactions control circadian clock in plants, study finds

ks had sped up to 20 hours. Conversely, mutations in the ZTL gene slowed the clock down to 27 hours. If both genes were missing entirely, the clock still ran, but at the wrong speed.

The researchers also looked for, and found, a strong physical interaction between TOC1 and ZTL.

"It became clear that ZTL is heavily involved in controlling the level of TOC1 in the plants," Somers said. "ZTL degrades TOC1, and this degradation is vital for normal plant functioning.

"We knew that TOC1 was one of the main components in controlling the clock's pace," he continued. "Now we know that ZTL indirectly controls the clock's pace through its effect on TOC1 degradation."

These findings help shed light on mechanisms that have puzzled scientists for years.

"The molecular components of the plant clock aren't well understood," Somers said. "And, unlike the mammalian circadian clock, a lot of the individual players are still unidentified."

Just as in animals, plants' circadian clocks are set by light and dark cycles, Somers said. In humans, feeling sleepy close to bedtime is controlled in part by the clock. In plants, the circadian clock controls the production of enzymes and other components involved in photosynthesis.

"If a plant can anticipate sunrise, it can have the necessary photosynthetic compounds prepared in advance," said Somers. "Many of the enzymes and molecular components of photosynthesis have to be re-made daily, as harvesting sunlight and turning it into useful energy is a destructive process.

"It's to a plant's advantage to be ready to absorb sunlight when it becomes available."


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Contact: David Somers
Somers.24@osu.edu
614-292-2551
Ohio State University
15-Dec-2003


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