DOE researchers look at circadian clock of fungi, algae, and cyanobacteria

April 2, 2019 |

In Washington state, fungi, algae, and cyanobacteria might not complain about jet lag. But like humans, their physiologies adhere to a roughly 24-hour cycle of behavioral patterns in the absence of external cues. Organisms that experience recurring day and night cycles have evolved a biochemical oscillator or circadian clock. This clock determines which activities, from sleep to cellular metabolism, occur at biologically advantageous times.

Since nearly all organisms share a circadian rhythm, biologists have a plethora of genetically tractable opportunities to study it in the laboratory. Research has focused on how changes in transcribed genes can lead to expressions of different proteins throughout the 24-hour cycle. Cyclical or ‘rhythmic’ expression dictated by the circadian clock allows organisms to anticipate regular environmental changes by optimizing the complement of proteins present at any given time.

Unique capabilities offered by EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a DOE Office of Science user facility at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Wash., provide biologists with the opportunity to study with unprecedented detail how proteins and metabolic pathways change over the course of a day. The DOE’s Office of Biological and Environment Research (BER)’s interest in improving the robustness and resilience of biofuel plants and fungi has motivated several recent investigations into drivers of circadian rhythm.

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