Evolutionary studies illuminate the structural-functional model of plant phytochromes

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A synthesis of insights from functional and evolutionary studies reveals how the phytochrome photoreceptor system has evolved to impart both stability and flexibility. Phytochromes in seed plants diverged into three major forms, phyA, phyB, and phyC, very early in the history of seed plants. Two additional forms, phyE and phyD, are restricted to flowering plants and Brassicaceae, respectively. While phyC, D, and E are absent from at least some taxa, phyA and phyB are present in all sampled seed plants and are the principal mediators of red/far-red-induced responses. Conversely, phyC-E apparently function in concert with phyB and, where present, expand the repertoire of phyB activities. Despite major advances, aspects of the structural-functional models for these photoreceptors remain elusive. Comparative sequence analyses expand the array of locus-specific mutant alleles for analysis by revealing historic mutations that occurred during gene lineage splitting and divergence. With insights from crystallographic data, a subset of these mutants can be chosen for functional studies to test their importance and determine the molecular mechanism by which they might impact light perception and signaling. In the case of gene families, where redundancy hinders isolation of some proportion of the relevant mutants, the approach may be particularly useful. © 2010 American Society of Plant Biologists.

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Plant Cell

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