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Plant Cell. 1997 May;9(5):675-88.

Regulation of photomorphogenesis by expression of mammalian biliverdin reductase in transgenic Arabidopsis plants.

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Section of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of California-Davis 95616, USA.


The photoregulatory activity of the phytochrome photoreceptor requires the synthesis and covalent attachment of the linear tetrapyrrole prosthetic group phytochromobilin. Because the mammalian enzyme biliverdin IX alpha reductase (BVR) is able to functionally inactivate phytochromobilin in vitro, this investigation was undertaken to determine whether BVR expression in transgenic plants would prevent the synthesis of functionally active phytochrome in vivo. Here, we show that plastid-targeted, constitutive expression of BVR in Arabidopsis yields plants that display aberrant photomorphogenesis throughout their life cycle. Photobiological and biochemical analyses of three transgenic BVR lines exhibiting a 25-fold range of BVR expression established that the BVR-dependent phenotypes are light dependent, pleiotropic, and consonant with the loss of multiple phytochrome activities. Chlorophyll accumulation in BVR-expressing transgenic plants was particularly sensitive to increased light fluence rates, which is consistent with an important role for phytochrome in light tolerance. Under blue light, transgenic BVR plants displayed elongated hypocotyls but retained phototropic behavior and the ability to fully deetiolate. Directed BVR expression may prove to be useful for probing the cellular and developmental basis of phytochrome-mediated responses and for selective control of individual aspects of light-mediated plant growth and development.

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