Two antagonistic clock-regulated histidine kinases time the activation of circadian gene expression

Mol Cell. 2013 Apr 25;50(2):288-94. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2013.02.022. Epub 2013 Mar 28.


The cyanobacterial circadian pacemaker consists of a three-protein clock--KaiA, KaiB, and KaiC--that generates oscillations in the phosphorylation state of KaiC. Here we investigate how temporal information encoded in KaiC phosphorylation is transduced to RpaA, a transcription factor required for circadian gene expression. We show that phosphorylation of RpaA is regulated by two antagonistic histidine kinases, SasA and CikA, which are sequentially activated at distinct times by the Kai clock complex. SasA acts as a kinase toward RpaA, whereas CikA, previously implicated in clock input, acts as a phosphatase that dephosphorylates RpaA. CikA and SasA cooperate to generate an oscillation of RpaA activity that is distinct from that generated by either enzyme alone and offset from the rhythm of KaiC phosphorylation. Our observations reveal how circadian clocks can precisely control the timing of output pathways via the concerted action of two oppositely acting enzymes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Circadian Clocks / genetics
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Histidine Kinase
  • Phosphorylation
  • Phosphotransferases / metabolism*
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Protein Kinases / physiology
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Synechococcus / enzymology
  • Synechococcus / genetics*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Phosphotransferases
  • Protein Kinases
  • SasA protein, Synechococcus
  • Histidine Kinase
  • CikA protein, bacteria