A novel allele of kaiA shortens the circadian period and strengthens interaction of oscillator components in the cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus PCC 7942

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The basic circadian oscillator of the unicellular fresh water cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus PCC 7942, the model organism for cyanobacterial circadian clocks, consists of only three protein components: KaiA, KaiB, and KaiC. These proteins, all of which are homomultimers, periodically interact to form large protein complexes with stoichiometries that depend on the phosphorylation state of KaiC. KaiA stimulates KaiC autophosphorylation through direct physical interactions. Screening a library of S. elongatus transposon mutants for circadian clock phenotypes uncovered an atypical short-period mutant that carries a kaiA insertion. Genetic and biochemical analyses showed that the short-period phenotype is caused by the truncation of KaiA by three amino acid residues at its C terminus. The disruption of a negative element upstream of the kaiBC promoter was another consequence of the insertion of the transposon; when not associated with a truncated kaiA allele, this mutation extended the circadian period. The circadian rhythm of KaiC phosphorylation was conserved in these mutants, but with some modifications in the rhythmic pattern of KaiC phosphorylation, such as the ratio of phosphorylated to unphosphorylated KaiC and the relative phase of the circadian phosphorylation peak. The results showed that there is no correlation between the phasing of the KaiC phosphorylation pattern and the rhythm of gene expression, measured as bioluminescence from luciferase reporter genes. The interaction between KaiC and the truncated KaiA was stronger than normal, as shown by fluorescence anisotropy analysis. Our data suggest that the KaiA-KaiC interaction and the circadian pattern of KaiC autophosphorylation are both important for determining the period, but not the relative phasing, of circadian rhythms in S. elongatus.


This is the Authors’ manuscript on PubMed Central. The version of record is available from the publisher at https://doi.org/10.1128/jb.00334-09. Copyright © 2009 American Society for Microbiology. All rights reserved.