Circadian oscillators, cell cycles, and singularities: light perturbations of the free-running rhythm of cell division inEuglena

Research paper by John R. Malinowski, Danielle L. Laval-Martin, Leland N. Edmunds

Indexed on: 01 Mar '85Published on: 01 Mar '85Published in: Journal of Comparative Physiology B


The free-running circadian rhythm of cell division in the algal flagellate,Euglena gracilis (Z) was perturbed by 3-h light signals of varying intensities imposed at different circadian times (CT). Light pulses within the range of 700 to 7,500 lux were found to yield the same ‘strong’ (Type 0) phase response curve (PRC) comprising both advance and delaye phase shifts as great as 15 h. Dark signals generated a PRC of reduced amplitude with very little, if any, phase advance being observed. Light perturbations of lower intensity, however, elicited quite different responses if applied at a quite specific circadian time: A 40- to 400-lux pulse given at approximately CT 0 (late subjective night) induced total arrhythmicity, and the culture reverted to asynchronous, exponential growth. Different degrees of arryhtmicity were induced by the same low-intensity perturbations (I*) given slightly before or after this sensitive phase point (T*), but if imposed at other circadian times, they generated normal type 0 phase resetting. The demonstration of the existence of this critical pulse (T*,I*) provides further evidence that the cell division cycle ofEuglena (and presumably other microorganisms) is regulated by a circadian oscillator and, in particular, by one having limit cycle dynamics.