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Plant Cell. 2017 Feb;29(2):310-330. doi: 10.1105/tpc.16.00388. Epub 2017 Jan 25.

Characterization of Phytochrome Interacting Factors from the Moss Physcomitrella patens Illustrates Conservation of Phytochrome Signaling Modules in Land Plants.

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Center for Plant Molecular Biology, University of Tübingen, 72076 Tübingen, Germany
Faculty of Biology, University of Freiburg, 79104 Freiburg, Germany.
Department of Molecular Biosciences and The Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Texas, Austin, Texas 78712.
Faculty of Biology, University of Marburg, 35043 Marburg, Germany.
Center for Plant Molecular Biology, University of Tübingen, 72076 Tübingen, Germany.
Department of Molecular Biology, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, 72076 Tübingen, Germany.
BIOSS Centre for Biological Signalling Studies, University of Freiburg, 79104 Freiburg, Germany.
Faculty of Biology, University of Freiburg, 79104 Freiburg, Germany


Across the plant kingdom, phytochrome (PHY) photoreceptors play an important role during adaptive and developmental responses to light. In Arabidopsis thaliana, light-activated PHYs accumulate in the nucleus, where they regulate downstream signaling components, such as phytochrome interacting factors (PIFs). PIFs are transcription factors that act as repressors of photomorphogenesis; their inhibition by PHYs leads to substantial changes in gene expression. The nuclear function of PHYs, however, has so far been investigated in only a few non-seed plants. Here, we identified putative target genes of PHY signaling in the moss Physcomitrella patens and found light-regulated genes that are putative orthologs of PIF-controlled genes in Arabidopsis. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that an ancestral PIF-like gene was already present in streptophyte algae, i.e., before the water-to-land transition of plants. The PIF homologs in the genome of P. patens resemble Arabidopsis PIFs in their protein domain structure, molecular properties, and physiological effects, albeit with notable differences in the motif-dependent PHY interaction. Our results suggest that P. patens PIFs are involved in PHY signaling. The PHY-PIF signaling node that relays light signals to target genes has been largely conserved during land plant evolution, with evidence of lineage-specific diversification.

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