Cyanochromes are blue/green light photoreversible photoreceptors defined by a stable double cysteine linkage to a phycoviolobilin-type chromophore

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Phytochromes are a collection of bilin-containing photoreceptors that regulate a diverse array of processes in microorganisms and plants through photoconversion between two stable states, a red light-absorbing Pr form, and a far red light-absorbing Pfr form. Recently, a novel set of phytochrome-like chromoproteins was discovered in cyanobacteria, designated here as cyanochromes, that instead photoconvert between stable blue and green light-absorbing forms Pb and Pg, respectively. Here, we show that the distinctive absorption properties of cyanochromes are facilitated through the binding of phycocyanobilin via two stable cysteine-based thioether linkages within the cGMP phosphodiesterase/ adenyl cyclase/FhlA domain. Absorption, resonance Raman and infrared spectroscopy, and molecular modeling of the Te-PixJ GAF (cGMP phosphodiesterase/adenyl cyclase/FhlA) domain assembled with phycocyanobilin are consistent with attachments to the C31 carbon of the ethylidene side chain and the C4 or C5 carbons in the A-B methine bridge to generate a double thioether-linked phycoviolobilin-type chromophore. These spectroscopic methods combined with NMR data show that the bilin is fully protonated in the Pb and Pg states and that numerous conformation changes occur during Pb → Pg photoconversion. Also identified were a number of photochromically inactive mutants with strong yellow or red fluorescence that may be useful for fluorescence-based cell biological assays. Phylogenetic analyses detected cyanochromes capable of different signaling outputs in a wide range of cyanobacterial species. One unusual case is the Synechocystis cyanochrome Etr1 that also binds ethylene, suggesting that it works as a hybrid receptor to simultaneously integrate light and hormone signals. © 2009 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.

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Journal of Biological Chemistry

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