Protein Drives Timekeeping System

In a study soon to appear in print in the journal Science, IGSB faculty Mike Rust and his team show how the highly unusual movements of a single protein drives the shift from nighttime to daytime biological functions in cyanobacteria.
The circadian clock drives powerful rhythms of rest and activity with your internal clock synchronized with local time. At night, you feel tired and in the morning, you feel ready to take on the world. You get jet lag when your clock — and therefore physiology and metabolism — are out of sync with your environment.

Protein Drives Timekeeping System
Cyanobacteria makes for a good test subject because of its simplicity and the three proteins driving its timekeeping system — KaiA, KaiB and KaiC — can be reassembled in a test tube, away from the complexity of live cells, and tick for days and weeks on a lab bench.
The new study published in Science shows that the KaiB protein flips between two distinct three-dimensional folds, which is a rare ability for proteins. When it switches folds, it binds KaiC and captures KaiA, initiating a transition of the circadian cycle and providing the link that joins the timekeeping and signaling functions of the bacteria’s oscillator. As a photosynthesizing organism, cyanobacteria need the sun to perform life functions. Signals from the clock prepare cyanobacteria for sunrise every day. The highly unusual behavior of KaiB metamorphosis plays an essential role in this regard. Read the full study here.

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