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J R Soc Interface. 2013 Feb 6;10(81):20121020. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2012.1020. Print 2013 Apr 6.

Enhanced entrainability of genetic oscillators by period mismatch.

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  • 1Department of Biophysics and Biochemistry, Graduate School of Science, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan.


Biological oscillators coordinate individual cellular components so that they function coherently and collectively. They are typically composed of multiple feedback loops, and period mismatch is unavoidable in biological implementations. We investigated the advantageous effect of this period mismatch in terms of a synchronization response to external stimuli. Specifically, we considered two fundamental models of genetic circuits: smooth and relaxation oscillators. Using phase reduction and Floquet multipliers, we numerically analysed their entrainability under different coupling strengths and period ratios. We found that a period mismatch induces better entrainment in both types of oscillator; the enhancement occurs in the vicinity of the bifurcation on their limit cycles. In the smooth oscillator, the optimal period ratio for the enhancement coincides with the experimentally observed ratio, which suggests biological exploitation of the period mismatch. Although the origin of multiple feedback loops is often explained as a passive mechanism to ensure robustness against perturbation, we study the active benefits of the period mismatch, which include increasing the efficiency of the genetic oscillators. Our findings show a qualitatively different perspective for both the inherent advantages of multiple loops and their essentiality.

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