Endogenous timekeepers in photosynthetic organisms

Annu Rev Physiol. 2001;63:695-728. doi: 10.1146/annurev.physiol.63.1.695.


Circadian and photoperiodic timing mechanisms were first described in photosynthetic organisms. These organisms depend upon sunlight for their energy, so adaptation to daily and seasonal fluctuations in light must have generated a strong selective pressure. Studies of the endogenous timekeepers of photosynthetic organisms provide evidence for both a fitness advantage and for selective pressures involved in early evolution of circadian clocks. Photoperiodic timing mechanisms in plants appear to use their circadian timers as the ruler by which the day/night length is measured. As in animals, the overall clock system in plants appears to be complex; the system includes multiple oscillators, several input pathways, and a myriad of outputs. Genes have now been isolated from plants that are likely to encode components of the central clockwork or at least that act very close to the central mechanism. Genetic and biochemical analyses of the central clockwork of a photosynthetic organism are most highly advanced in cyanobacteria, where a cluster of clock genes and interacting factors have been characterized.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / physiology*
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Eukaryota / physiology*
  • Photosynthesis / physiology*
  • Plant Proteins / physiology


  • Plant Proteins