A Minimal Biological Clock

A new collaboration for 2007 links four leading laboratories in France, England and Scotland, to study the biological clock of the tiny alga, Ostreococcus tauri.

Ostreococcus is a marine micro-alga that lives amongst the plankton. It is a eukaryotic organism, so each cell has a nucleus. Over evolutionary time it has been reduced to the minute size of a bacterium, with a very simple structure: one chloroplast, one mitochondrion, and the nucleus.

EM Picture: Courtesy of M-L Escande & C. Courties; montage courtesy of F-Y Bouget.

This smallest of free-living eukaryotes has a genome one-tenth the size of the model higher plant Arabidopsis thaliana, but still retains one-third of Arabidopsis' gene number. Ostreococcus shares the genes that form the 24-hour biological clock with Arabidopsis, where the clockwork has been most studied. Most importantly for this project, the algal clock appears to use the same biochemistry but in a greatly simplified form. This simplicity provides a key advantage when tackled with the new approaches of Systems Biology - combining lab experiments with statistics, mathematical analysis, and computer modelling.

The collaboration includes the groups of :

bulletDr. Francois-Yves Bouget (coordinator, French lead), Laboratoire Arago, Banyuls-sur-mer.
bulletProf. Andrew Millar (UK lead), Centre for Systems Biology at Edinburgh.
bulletDr. Marc Lefranc, PhLAM, Université de Lille.
bulletProf. Jim Smith, Department of Statistics, University of Warwick.

The project is supported by infrastructure and resources of the Centre for Systems Biology at Edinburgh and of Génopole Ouest, Rennes. Our thanks to  Centre for Systems Biology at Edinburgh logo and  .

We are grateful for funding from the joint Systems Biology Initiative of the ANR and BBSRC.

Université Pierre et Marie Curie