Stochastic properties of the plant circadian clock

Maria Luisa Guerriero, Alexandra Pokhilko, Aurora Pinas Fernandez, Karen J. Halliday, Andrew J. Millar, Jane Hillston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


Circadian clocks are gene regulatory networks whose role is to help the organisms to cope with variations in environmental conditions such as the day/night cycle. In this work, we explored the effects of molecular noise in single cells on the behaviour of the circadian clock in the plant model species Arabidopsis thaliana. The computational modelling language Bio-PEPA enabled us to give a stochastic interpretation of an existing deterministic model of the clock, and to easily compare the results obtained via stochastic simulation and via numerical solution of the deterministic model. First, the introduction of stochasticity in the model allowed us to estimate the unknown size of the system. Moreover, stochasticity improved the description of the available experimental data in several light conditions: noise-induced fluctuations yield a faster entrainment of the plant clock under certain photoperiods and are able to explain the experimentally observed dampening of the oscillations in plants under constant light conditions. The model predicts that the desynchronization between noisy oscillations in single cells contributes to the observed damped oscillations at the level of the cell population. Analysis of the phase, period and amplitude distributions under various light conditions demonstrated robust entrainment of the plant clock to light/dark cycles which closely matched the available experimental data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)744-756
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number69
Early online date31 Aug 2011
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2012


  • circadian clock
  • Arabidopsis thaliana
  • discrete stochastic model
  • Bio-PEPA process algebra
  • oscillatory systems
  • gene-expression
  • molecular noise
  • arabidopsis
  • rhythms
  • systems
  • models
  • robustness
  • simulation
  • network


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