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This article is part of the supplement: Selected articles from the Eleventh Asia Pacific Bioinformatics Conference (APBC 2013): Bioinformatics

Open Access Proceedings

A model of the circadian clock in the cyanobacterium Cyanothece sp. ATCC 51142

Nguyen Xuan Vinh1*, Madhu Chetty1*, Ross Coppel2, Sandeep Gaudana3 and Pramod P Wangikar3

Author Affiliations

1 Gippsland School of Information Technology, Monash University, Australia

2 Department of Microbiology, Monash University, Australia

3 Chemical Engineering Department, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, India

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BMC Bioinformatics 2013, 14(Suppl 2):S14  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-14-S2-S14

Published: 21 January 2013



The over consumption of fossil fuels has led to growing concerns over climate change and global warming. Increasing research activities have been carried out towards alternative viable biofuel sources. Of several different biofuel platforms, cyanobacteria possess great potential, for their ability to accumulate biomass tens of times faster than traditional oilseed crops. The cyanobacterium Cyanothece sp. ATCC 51142 has recently attracted lots of research interest as a model organism for such research. Cyanothece can perform efficiently both photosynthesis and nitrogen fixation within the same cell, and has been recently shown to produce biohydrogen--a byproduct of nitrogen fixation--at very high rates of several folds higher than previously described hydrogen-producing photosynthetic microbes. Since the key enzyme for nitrogen fixation is very sensitive to oxygen produced by photosynthesis, Cyanothece employs a sophisticated temporal separation scheme, where nitrogen fixation occurs at night and photosynthesis at day. At the core of this temporal separation scheme is a robust clocking mechanism, which so far has not been thoroughly studied. Understanding how this circadian clock interacts with and harmonizes global transcription of key cellular processes is one of the keys to realize the inherent potential of this organism.


In this paper, we employ several state of the art bioinformatics techniques for studying the core circadian clock in Cyanothece sp. ATCC 51142, and its interactions with other key cellular processes. We employ comparative genomics techniques to map the circadian clock genes and genetic interactions from another cyanobacterial species, namely Synechococcus elongatus PCC 7942, of which the circadian clock has been much more thoroughly investigated. Using time series gene expression data for Cyanothece, we employ gene regulatory network reconstruction techniques to learn this network de novo, and compare the reconstructed network against the interactions currently reported in the literature. Next, we build a computational model of the interactions between the core clock and other cellular processes, and show how this model can predict the behaviour of the system under changing environmental conditions. The constructed models significantly advance our understanding of the Cyanothece circadian clock functional mechanisms.