Circadian Gene Expression in Cyanobacteria

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Circadian Gene Expression in Cyanobacteria

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Title: Circadian Gene Expression in Cyanobacteria
Author: Vijayan, Vikram
Citation: Vijayan, Vikram. 2012. Circadian Gene Expression in Cyanobacteria. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: Cyanobacteria are photosynthetic prokaryotes that live in aquatic environments. The cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus PCC 7942, (hereafter S. elongatus) coordinates its day and night behaviors via a circadian clock. The clock is entrained by light/dark cycles but continues to run in constant light conditions. The core circadian clock in S. elongatus is encoded by post-translational modifications of three Kai proteins, but the extent and mechanism of circadian gene expression are unknown. We provide the first unbiased characterization of circadian gene expression in S. elongatus, demonstrating that \(\sim 65\%\) of genes display oscillation in continuous light conditions, with some genes peaking in expression at subjective dawn and others at subjective dusk. We next sought to identify the mechanism by which such a large fraction of the genome could be rhythmically controlled. Through bioinformatic, correlative, and perturbation experiments, we find that circadian changes in chromosome topology/supercoiling are sufficient to drive rhythmic expression (Chapter 2). To further investigate how chromosome topology can control gene expression we performed a high resolution characterization of transcripts and RNA polymerase across the S. elongatus genome (Chapter 3). Bioinformatic analysis of transcription start sites suggests that the AT/GC content a particular region of the promoter is informative in defining the phase at which a transcript is maximally expressed. We find that these sequences are sufficient to drive circadian gene expression at a particular phase and that mutation of single nucleotides in this region can reverse the expression phase of a transcript (Chapter 4). To understand the role of chromosome dynamics in circadian gene expression and cyanobacterial physiology, we tagged and followed chromosomes over multiple cell divisions. We find that S. elongatus cells harbor multiple ordered copies of a single chromosome, and the organization of chromosomes in the cytoplasm facilitates equal segregation of chromosomes to daughter cells (Chapter 5).
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