Mar 17, 2017
Operation of ancient biological clock uncovered
How could the scientists resolve the working of the individual pieces? "In the end, the trick to understand the ticking biological clock in cyanobacteria was to literally make time stop," tells research leader Albert Heck from Utrecht University. "Or as William Faulkner, Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature said: 'Only when the clock stops does time come to life.' Faulkner spoke taking a pause in the constant haste of life. That was also the trick here. We slowed the biological clock by running it in the fridge for a week. In the literal sense we have frozen the time."
In addition to stopping time, the researchers applied a new combination of cutting-edge research techniques. With one technique, they were able to determine how often each of the three protein complexes -- KaiA, KaiB and KaiC -- assembled or disassembled in a single 24-hour cycle. This taught them which collections of protein components -- combinations of gears, springs and balances -- determine the daily rhythm.
They then stopped the clock at specific moments by reducing the temperature. This allowed them to use a variety of techniques to zoom in in great detail on the structure of the collection of protein components at that moment -- the position of the gears, springs and balances. In so doing, they identified the two structures that are vital to understanding how the clock works. The researchers could then derive how the wheels turn by determining the transitions from one structure to another. This produced a model that shows exactly how only three protein components form a precision timepiece that operates on a 24-hour cycle.
Read more at Science Daily