Biotech Updates

Manipulating Plants' Circadian Clock May Make All-season Crops Possible

September 9, 2011

Researchers at Yale University have identified an important genetic gear that makes the circadian clock continue to tick, a discovery that could impact agriculture globally.

"Farmers are limited by the seasons, but by understanding the circadian rhythm of plants, which controls basic functions such as photosynthesis and flowering, we might be able to engineer plants that can grow in different seasons and places than is currently possible," said Xing Wang Deng, the Daniel C. Eaton Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at Yale and senior author of the paper.

The circadian clock serves as the biological timekeeper of almost all organisms, setting time for all biological processes that occur at day and at night. In plants, the clock is important for adjusting growth to both time and day and to the seasons. The Yale researchers identified DET1 as a crucial gene in helping suppress the expression of "evening" genes in the circadian cycle.

"Plants that make less DET1 have a faster clock and they take less time to flower," said lead author On Sun Lau, a former Yale graduate student who is now at Stanford University. "Knowing the components of the plant's circadian clock and their roles would assist in the selection or generation of valuable traits in crop and ornamental plants."

Read Yale University's news release at