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The structures and functions of the phytochrome apoprotein genes (the PHY genes), their diversity across the plant kingdom, and their evolution are central concerns in the study of red-light sensing in plants. We summarize here recent advances in two areas relating to these topics: (1) the characteristics of the PHY gene family in Arabidopsis thaliana, the higher plant species for which the most extensive information on these genes is available, and (2) the similarity relationships, phylogeny, and evolutionary implications of PHY gene sequences and partial sequences which have been described from various plants. Together, these two areas of study, one directed at understanding in detail the phytochromes present in a single species and the other directed at a much broader understanding of PHY gene relatedness and distribution, are producing an increasingly clear picture of the diversity and evolution of plant red-light photoreceptors. Moreover, they suggest that the complexity of the phytochrome family has increased as land plants have evolved novel morphologies.

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Plant, Cell and Environment

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