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PLoS Genet. 2015 Sep 14;11(9):e1005516. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1005516. eCollection 2015 Sep.

Photoreceptor Specificity in the Light-Induced and COP1-Mediated Rapid Degradation of the Repressor of Photomorphogenesis SPA2 in Arabidopsis.

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Botanical Institute and Cluster of Excellence on Plant Sciences (CEPLAS), Biocenter, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany.


The Arabidopsis COP1/SPA E3 ubiquitin ligase is a key negative regulator that represses light signaling in darkness by targeting transcription factors involved in the light response for degradation. The COP1/SPA complex consists of COP1 and members of the four-member SPA protein family (SPA1-SPA4). Genetic analysis indicated that COP1/SPA2 function is particularly strongly repressed by light when compared to complexes carrying the other three SPAs, thereby promoting a light response after exposure of plants to extremely low light. Here, we show that the SPA2 protein is degraded within 5-15 min after exposure of dark-grown seedlings to a pulse of light. Phytochrome photoreceptors are required for the rapid degradation of SPA2 in red, far-red and also in blue light, whereas cryptochromes are not involved in the rapid, blue light-induced reduction in SPA2 protein levels. These results uncover a photoreceptor-specific mechanism of light-induced inhibition of COP1/SPA2 function. Phytochrome A (phyA) is required for the severe blue light responsiveness of spa triple mutants expressing only SPA2, thus confirming the important role of phyA in downregulating SPA2 function in blue light. In blue light, SPA2 forms a complex with cryptochrome 1 (cry1), but not with cryptochrome 2 (cry2) in vivo, indicating that the lack of a rapid blue light response of the SPA2 protein is only in part caused by a failure to interact with cryptochromes. Since SPA1 interacts with both cry1 and cry2, these results provide first molecular evidence that the light-regulation of different SPA proteins diverged during evolution. SPA2 degradation in the light requires COP1 and the COP1-interacting coiled-coil domain of SPA2, supporting that SPA2 is ubiquitinated by COP1. We propose that light perceived by phytochromes causes a switch in the ubiquitination activity of COP1/SPA2 from ubiquitinating downstream substrates to ubiquitinating SPA2, which subsequently causes a repression of COP1/SPA2 function.

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