A gene that triggers plants to become dormant at night and controls flowering has been discovered by scientists.

Computer models of cress plants genes showed how 12 genes work together to set plants’ internal clocks, University of Edinburgh researchers said.

They found that a protein, known as TOC1, previously associated with helping plants to wake up, dampened down gene activity at night.

Professor Andrew Millar said “it was a big change in thinking”.

Plants, animals and even bacteria go through a daily 24-hour routine, known as a circadian rhythm, which allow them to make tiny adjustments as daylight changes, and adapt to changing seasons.

Prof Millar said: “Just like humans you should think about plants having rhythms.

“Having a biological clock is particularly important for plants to prepare for daylight and at night-time [to] store energy for growth.

“We now understand how the dozen or so genes work and are typical to particular times of the day,” he said.

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