The plant circadian clock controls many aspects of growth and development, allowing an individual to adapt its physiology and metabolism in anticipation of diurnal and seasonal environmental changes. Circadian regulation of hormone levels and hormonal signalling modulates many features of development, including daily growth patterns and the breaking of seed dormancy. The clock also plays a role in seasonal day-length perception, allowing plants to optimally time key development transitions, such as reproduction. Moreover, the clock restricts (gates) the sensitivity of a plant's response to environmental cues, such as light and stress, to specific times of the day, ensuring that the plant can distinguish between normal fluctuations and longer-term changes. The central oscillator controls many of these output pathways via rhythmic gene expression, with several of the core clock components encoding transcription factors. Post-transcriptional processes are also likely to make an important contribution to the circadian regulation of output pathways. The plant circadian clock plays a role in regulating fitness, hybrid vigour and numerous stress responses. Thus elucidating the complexities of the circadian output mechanisms and their regulation may provide new avenues for crop enhancement.

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