Stochastic models of cellular circadian rhythms in plants help to understand the impact of noise on robustness and clock structure

Front Plant Sci. 2014 Oct 21;5:564. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2014.00564. eCollection 2014.


Rhythmic behavior is essential for plants; for example, daily (circadian) rhythms control photosynthesis and seasonal rhythms regulate their life cycle. The core of the circadian clock is a genetic network that coordinates the expression of specific clock genes in a circadian rhythm reflecting the 24-h day/night cycle. Circadian clocks exhibit stochastic noise due to the low copy numbers of clock genes and the consequent cell-to-cell variation: this intrinsic noise plays a major role in circadian clocks by inducing more robust oscillatory behavior. Another source of noise is the environment, which causes variation in temperature and light intensity: this extrinsic noise is part of the requirement for the structural complexity of clock networks. Advances in experimental techniques now permit single-cell measurements and the development of single-cell models. Here we present some modeling studies showing the importance of considering both types of noise in understanding how plants adapt to regular and irregular light variations. Stochastic models have proven useful for understanding the effect of regular variations. By contrast, the impact of irregular variations and the interaction of different noise sources are less well studied.

Keywords: Arabidopsis thaliana; Ostreococcus tauri; circadian clocks; extrinsic noise; intrinsic noise; modeling; plants; stochasticity.