Background: Organisms are able to anticipate changes in the daily environment with an internal oscillator know as the circadian clock. Transcription is an important mechanism in maintaining these oscillations. Here we explore, using whole genome tiling arrays, the extent of rhythmic expression patterns genome-wide, with an unbiased analysis of coding and noncoding regions of the Arabidopsis genome.
Results: As in previous studies, we detected a circadian rhythm for approximately 25% of the protein coding genes in the genome. With an unbiased interrogation of the genome, extensive rhythmic introns were detected predominantly in phase with adjacent rhythmic exons, creating a transcript that, if translated, would be expected to produce a truncated protein. In some cases, such as the MYB transcription factor AT2G20400, an intron was found to exhibit a circadian rhythm while the remainder of the transcript was otherwise arrhythmic. In addition to several known noncoding transcripts, including microRNA, trans-acting short interfering RNA, and small nucleolar RNA, greater than one thousand intergenic regions were detected as circadian clock regulated, many of which have no predicted function, either coding or noncoding. Nearly 7% of the protein coding genes produced rhythmic antisense transcripts, often for genes whose sense strand was not similarly rhythmic.
Conclusions: This study revealed widespread circadian clock regulation of the Arabidopsis genome extending well beyond the protein coding transcripts measured to date. This suggests a greater level of structural and temporal dynamics than previously known.