The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded this week jointly to three American researchers who have elucidated the working of the biological clock. Plant physiologist Sander van der Krol teaches Wageningen students on this subject and uses knowledge of the clock to regulate the growth of plants in glasshouses.
The American researchers Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young were able to isolate a gene in fruit flies that regulates the body’s rhythm of day. But it’s a bit more complex than that, explains Van der Krol inth Wageningen University & Research magazine Resource-online. ‘They have unravelled the mechanism of the biological clock in plants and animals. Thanks to their research into the fruit fly’s biological clock, we now also understand how that clock works in other organisms. They were the first to find a gene that forms part of the clock, and they have discovered a feedback mechanism in which this gene inhibits its own synthesis. Upon further investigation, they also found steps that delayed this feedback mechanism. These delays in the feedback are necessary to achieve a 24-hours cycle. In this, they have mapped the structure of the biological clock for all organisms.’