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Studying the importance of biological rhythms for the ecological performance of plants
Date:2/29/2012

This press release is available in German.

The central question of the 5-year project starting in April 2012 is whether these "arrhythmic" plants whose circadian clocks no longer work can survive in the wild. In other words, much like the night-shifted dysfunctional character in the movie Clockwork Orange whose behavioral abnormalities could be elicited by Beethoven's music, in Clockwork Green Baldwin and his team of researchers will use genetic and chemical tools to elicit arrhythmicity and study its consequences for a native plant in its native community.

Ecological Performance is all about timing

Whether an organism survives or dies in a particular habitat depends on whether it can do the right thing at the right time. In other words, timing is essential for survival. All organisms have a cellular clock and in many species from the different kingdoms of fungi, insects, plants, and even in humans, the mechanism of the molecular clock is becoming increasingly well understood. The circadian biological clock is thought to guarantee an optimal adaptation to prevailing environmental conditions but this has never been examined before in an organism growing under real world conditions.

Plants primary producers

Plants are the foundation of most terrestrial food chains. They use solar energy to produce sugars, starch, protein and fat, on which all heterotrophic life forms depend: fungi as well as rabbits consuming leaves. The circadian rhythms of plants are well studied: leaf movements, the opening and closing of stomata, and photosynthetic metabolism, are all processes regulated by an endogenous clock. Daily cycles can also be clearly seen in the patterns of gene expression. Interestingly, more than 30% of all plant genes (plant genomes typically harbor 25,000 genes) are under circadian regulation. However, t
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Contact: Ian T. Baldwin
baldwin@ice.mpg.de
49-364-157-1101
Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology
Source:Eurekalert  

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