CikA, an Input Pathway Component, Senses the Oxidized Quinone Signal to Generate Phase Delays in the Cyanobacterial Circadian Clock

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The circadian clock is a timekeeping system in most organisms that keeps track of the time of day. The rhythm generated by the circadian oscillator must be constantly synchronized with the environmental day/night cycle to make the timekeeping system truly advantageous. In the cyanobacterial circadian clock, quinone is a biological signaling molecule used for entraining and fine-tuning the oscillator, a process in which the external signals are transduced into biological metabolites that adjust the phase of the circadian oscillation. Among the clock proteins, the pseudo-receiver domain of KaiA and CikA can sense external cues by detecting the oxidation state of quinone, a metabolite that reflects the light/dark cycle, although the molecular mechanism is not fully understood. Here, we show the antagonistic phase shifts produced by the quinone sensing of KaiA and CikA. We introduced a new cyanobacterial circadian clock mixture that includes an input component in vitro. KaiA and CikA cause phase advances and delays, respectively, in this circadian clock mixture in response to the quinone signal. In the entrainment process, oxidized quinone modulates the functions of KaiA and CikA, which dominate alternatively at day and night in the cell. This in turn changes the phosphorylation state of KaiC—the central oscillator in cyanobacteria—ensuring full synchronization of the circadian clock. Moreover, we reemphasize the mechanistic input functionality of CikA, contrary to other reports that focus only on its output action.


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