Research ArticleCELL BIOLOGY

Heterogeneity of cellular circadian clocks in intact plants and its correction under light-dark cycles

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Science Advances  15 Jul 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 7, e1600500
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600500

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Recent advances in single-cell analysis have revealed the stochasticity and nongenetic heterogeneity inherent to cellular processes. However, our knowledge of the actual cellular behaviors in a living multicellular organism is still limited. By using a single-cell bioluminescence imaging technique on duckweed, Lemna gibba, we demonstrate that, under constant conditions, cells in the intact plant work as individual circadian clocks that oscillate with their own frequencies and respond independently to external stimuli. Quantitative analysis uncovered the heterogeneity and instability of cellular clocks and partial synchronization between neighboring cells. Furthermore, we found that cellular clocks in the plant body under light-dark cycles showed a centrifugal phase pattern in which the effect of cell-to-cell heterogeneity in period lengths was almost masked. The inherent heterogeneity in the properties of cellular clocks observed under constant conditions is corrected under light-dark cycles to coordinate the daily rhythms of the plant body. These findings provide a novel perspective of spatiotemporal architectures in the plant circadian system.

  • circadian rhythms
  • bioluminescence
  • single cell analysis
  • pattern formation

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