Plant biologist Paloma Mas distinguished for her research on biological rhythms

Crag News

Plant biologist Paloma Mas distinguished for her research on biological rhythms

Paloma Mas holding the Aschoff's Rule plaque
Paloma Mas holding the Aschoff's Rule plaque

At the recent Gordon Conference in Chronobiology, Paloma Mas received the Aschoff's Rule Prize, one of the highest distinctions in the field of biological rhythms. The award, which is given annually since 1991, was handed by the previous awardee Carrie Partch (UC Santa Cruz, USA), who had to choose the next year’s recipient: a researcher who have made key contributions to the advance of chronobiology, and who works in a different country and with a different organism. Paloma Mas is the first Spanish researcher to have been recognized with the Aschoff’s Rule Price.

This is such a nice historical prize. It was a big surprise for me and a real honour”, explains Paloma Mas. 

Chronobiologist study the cyclic phenomena occurring in living organisms. These cyclic phenomena are ubiquitous in nature, from the beating of the heart to the rhythms of flowering plants. Their importance was reflected in the award of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology to Hall, Rosbash and Young for their pioneering genetic and molecular dissection of the Drosophila circadian clock.  The German scientist Jürgen Aschoff (1913-1998) is considered one of the founders of chronobiology. His fundamental observations about how animals respond to light became known as Aschoff's Rule. In 1991, one of the scientists Aschoff mentored, Till Roenneberg, took from Aschoff's lab the battered old wooden ruler he had used to measure behavioural change in response to light, mounted it on a bronze plaque, and began the tradition of giving Aschoff's Ruler to a top scientist in the field. The names of the scientists who received the award are engraved on the back of the bronze plaque.

This is only the second time that Aschoff´s Rule Award recognizes a researcher working with the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Paloma Mas, CSIC Research Professor at CRAG, has made important contributions towards the understanding the circadian system in plants. For instance, she identified how different clock components regulate each other to allow the clock to tick on time. Her lab has also demonstrated how the plant circadian clock controls the timing of essential processes in the plant such as the cell cycle. Recent results from her lab have also uncovered how circadian clocks communicate between neighboring cells and within distal parts of the plant such as shoots and roots.

Next year, Paloma Mas, will pass the Aschoff's Rule plaque to another scientist in the field. 

Aschoff's Rule plaque