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J Biol Chem. 1992 Jul 25;267(21):14790-8.

Phytochrome assembly. The structure and biological activity of 2(R),3(E)-phytochromobilin derived from phycobiliproteins.

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  • 1Division of Biology and Medicine, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912.


The unicellular rhodophyte, Porphyridium cruentum, and the filamentous cyanobacterium, Calothrix sp. PCC 7601, contain phycobiliproteins that have covalently bound phycobilin chromophores. Overnight incubation of solvent-extracted cells at 40 degrees C with methanol liberates free phycobilins that are derived from the protein-bound bilins by methanolytic cleavage of the thioether linkages between bilin and apoprotein. Two of the free bilins were identified as 3(E)-phycocyanobilin and 3(E)-phycoerythrombilin by comparative spectrophotometry and high pressure liquid chromatography. Methanolysis also yields a third bilin free acid whose absorption and 1H NMR spectra support the assignment of the 3(E)-phytochromobilin structure. This novel bilin is the major pigment isolated from cells that are pre-extracted with acetone-containing solvents. Since phytochrome- or phytochromobilin-containing proteins are not present in either organism, the 3(E)-phytochromobilin must arise by oxidation of phycobilin chromophores. This pigment is not obtained by similar treatment of a cyanobacterium and a rhodophyte that lack phycoerythrin. Therefore, 3(E)-phytochromobilin appears to be derived from phycoerythrobilin-containing proteins. Comparative CD spectroscopy of 3(E)-phytochrombilin and 3(E)-phycocyanobilin suggests that the two bilins share the R stereochemistry at the 2-position in the reduced pyrrole ring. Incubation of 2(R),3(E)-phytochromobilin with recombinant oat apophytochrome yields a covalent bilin adduct that is photoactive and spectrally indistinguishable from native oat phytochrome isolated from etiolated seedlings. These results establish that the phycobiliprotein-derived 2(R),3(E)-phytochromobilin is a biologically active phytochrome chromophore precursor.

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