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Plant J. 2007 Apr;50(1):108-17. Epub 2007 Mar 5.

Phytochrome A is an irradiance-dependent red light sensor.

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Department of Biology, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 7RH, UK.


Plants perceive red (R) and far-red (FR) light signals using the phytochrome family of photoreceptors. In Arabidopsis thaliana, five phytochromes (phyA-phyE) have been identified and characterized. Unlike other family members, phyA is subject to rapid light-induced proteolytic degradation and so accumulates to relatively high levels in dark-grown seedlings. The insensitivity of phyA mutant seedlings to prolonged FR and wild-type appearance in R has led to suggestions that phyA functions predominantly as an FR sensor during the early stages of seedling establishment. The majority of published photomorphogenesis experiments have, however, used <50 micromol m(-2) sec(-1) of R when characterizing phytochrome functions. Here we reveal considerable phyA activity in R at higher (>160 micromol m(-2) sec(-1)) photon irradiances. Under these conditions, plant architecture was observed to be largely regulated by the redundant actions of phytochromes A, B and D. Moreover, quadruple phyBphyCphyDphyE mutants containing only functional phyA displayed R-mediated de-etiolation and survived to flowering. The enhanced activity of phyA in continuous R (Rc) of high photon irradiance correlates with retarded degradation of the endogenous protein in wild-type plants and prolonged epifluorescence of nuclear-localized phyA:YFP in transgenic lines. Such observations suggest irradiance-dependent 'photoprotection' of nuclear phyA in R, providing a possible explanation for the increased activity observed. The discovery that phyA can function as an effective irradiance sensor, even in light environments that establish a high Pfr concentration, raises the possibility that phyA may contribute significantly to the regulation of growth and development in daylight-grown plants.

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