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Plant J. 2007 Jan;49(2):338-53. Epub 2006 Dec 20.

Subfunctionalization of PhyB1 and PhyB2 in the control of seedling and mature plant traits in maize.

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  • 1Department of Plant Biology, Cornell University, Tower Road, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


Phytochromes are the primary red/far-red photoreceptors of higher plants, mediating numerous developmental processes throughout the life cycle, from germination to flowering. In seed plants, phytochromes are encoded by a small gene family with each member performing both distinct and redundant roles in mediating physiological responses to light cues. Studies in both eudicot and monocot species have defined a central role for phytochrome B in mediating responses to light in the control of several agronomically important traits, including plant height, transitions to flowering and axillary branch meristem development. Here we characterize Mutator-induced alleles of PhyB1 and a naturally occurring deletion allele of PhyB2 in Zea mays (maize). Using single and double mutants, we show that the highly similar PhyB1 and PhyB2 genes encode proteins with both overlapping and non-redundant functions that control seedling and mature plant traits. PHYB1 and PHYB2 regulate elongation of sheath and stem tissues of mature plants and contribute to the light-mediated regulation of PhyA and Cab gene transcripts. However, PHYB1 and not PHYB2 contributes significantly to the inhibition of mesocotyl elongation under red light, whereas PHYB2 and to a lesser extent PHYB1 mediate the photoperiod-dependent floral transition. This sub functionalization of PHYB activities in maize has probably occurred since the tetraploidization of maize, and may contribute to flowering time variation in modern-day varieties.

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