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Circadian clocks optimally adapt to sunlight for reliable synchronization.


Circadian oscillation provides selection advantages through synchronization to the daylight cycle. However, a reliable clock must be designed through two conflicting properties: entrainability to synchronize internal time with periodic stimuli such as sunlight, and regularity to oscillate with a precise period. These two aspects do not easily coexist, because better entrainability favours higher sensitivity which may sacrifice regularity. To investigate conditions for satisfying the two properties, we analytically calculated the optimal phase-response curve with a variational method. Our results indicate an existence of a dead zone, i.e. a time period during which input stimuli neither advance nor delay the clock. A dead zone appears only when input stimuli obey the time course of actual solar radiation, but a simple sine curve cannot yield a dead zone. Our calculation demonstrates that every circadian clock with a dead zone is optimally adapted to the daylight cycle.

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