A minimal circadian clock model

Genome Inform. 2007;18:54-64.


The coordination of biological activities into daily cycles provides an important advantage for the fitness of diverse organisms. Thereby, an internal circadian oscillator drives gene expression in an approximate 24 hours rhythm. Circadian clocks are found in most eukaryotes. In prokaryotes only cyanobacteria are known to regulate their activities in a circadian rhythm. In vitro experiments showed that three cyanobacterial proteins KaiA, KaiB and KaiC together with ATP are sufficient to generate temperature-compensated circadian oscillations of KaiC protein phosphorylation. Thus, in contrast to eukaryotic clock models the cyanobacterial core oscillator operates independently of transcription and translation processes. Most previous models of the bacterial circadian clock used complex mathematical descriptions. Here, we suggest a minimal and manageable heuristic system. Even though only four reaction steps were assumed, our model exhibited sustained oscillations of KaiC phosphorylation. A simulation of known experimental data was successful as well as oscillations maintained even for a concerted increase of Kai protein concentration. Thus, we provided a useful minimal system of differential equations which might serve as a core module of the holistic cyanobacterial clockwork in the future.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Clocks*
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Synechococcus / physiology