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Bioessays. 2000 Jan;22(1):16-22.

Ultradian clocks in eukaryotic microbes: from behavioural observation to functional genomics.

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Biological Timing Lab, Institute of Cell, Animal and Population Biology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom.


Period homeostasis is the defining characteristic of a biological clock. Strict period homeostasis is found for the ultradian clocks of eukaryotic microbes. In addition to being temperature-compensated, the period of these rhythms is unaffected by differences in nutrient composition or changes in other environmental variables. The best-studied examples of ultradian clocks are those of the ciliates Paramecium tetraurelia and Tetrahymena sp. and of the fission yeast, Schizosaccharomyces pombe. In these single cell eukaryotes, up to seven different parameters display ultradian rhythmicity with the same, species- and strain-specific period. In fission yeast, the molecular genetic analysis of ultradian clock mechanisms has begun with the systematic analysis of mutants in identified candidate genes. More than 40 "clock mutants" have already been identified, most of them affected in components of major regulatory and signalling pathways. These results indicate a high degree of complexity for a eukaryotic clock mechanism. BioEssays 22:16-22, 2000.

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