skip to main content

SciTech ConnectSciTech Connect

Title: Phytochrome from Green Plants: Properties and biological Function

Plants constantly monitor the light environment for informational light signals used to direct adaptational responses to the prevailing conditions. One major such response, the Shade-Avaoidance Response (SAR), triggered when plants sense the presence of competing neighbors, results in enhanced channeling of photosynthetically-fixed carbon into stem elongation at the expense of deposition in reproductive tissues. This response has been selected against in many modern food crops to ensure maximum edible yield (e.g. seeds). Converse enhancement of the SAR, with consequent increased carbon channeling into vegetative cellulose, could contribute to the generation of crops with improved yield of tissues suitable for cellulosic biofuel production. The signal for this response is light enriched in far-red wavelengths. This signal is produced by sunlight filtered through, or reflected from, neighboring vegetation, as a result of preferential depletion of red photons through chlorophyll absorption. The plant phytochrome (phy) photoreceptor system (predominantly phyB) senses this signal through its capacity to switch reversibly, in milliseconds, between two molecular states: the biologically inactive Pr (red-light-absorbing) and biologically active Pfr (far-red-light-absorbing) conformers. The photoequilibrium established between these two conformers in light-grown plants is determined by the ratio of red-to-far-red wavelengths in the incoming signal. The levels of Pfr then dictatemore » the recipient plant’s growth response: high levels suppress elongation growth; low levels promote elongation growth. Studies on seedling deetiolation have advanced our understanding considerably in recent years, of the mechanism by which the photoactivated phy molecule transduces its signal into cellular growth responses. The data show that a subfamily of phy-interacting bHLH transcription factors (PIFs) promote skotomorphogenic seedling development in post-germinative darkness, but that the phy Pfr conformer reverses this activity upon initial light exposure, inducing the switch to photomorphogenic development. This reversal involves light-triggered translocation of the photoactivated phy molecule into the nucleus where it interacts with PIF-family members, inducing rapid phosphorylation and degradation of the PIFs via the ubiquitin-proteasome system. This degradation in turn elicits rapid alterations in gene expression that drive the deetiolation transition. This project has made considerable progress in defining phy-PIF signaling activity in controlling the SAR. The biological functions of the multiple PIF-family members in controlling the SAR, including dissection of the relative contributions of the individual PIFs to this process, as well as to diurnal growth-control oscillations, have been investigated using higher-order pif-mutant combinations. Using microarray analysis of a quadruple pif mutant we have defined the shade-induced, PIF-regulated transcriptional network genome-wide. This has revealed that a dynamic antagonism between the phys and PIFs generates selective reciprocal responses during deetiolation and the SAR in a rapidly light-responsive transcriptional network. Using integrated RNA-seq and ChIP-seq analysis of higher order pif-mutant combinations, we have defined the direct gene-targets of PIF transcriptional regulation, and have obtained evidence that this regulation involves differential direct targeting of rapidly light-responsive genes by the individual PIF-family members. This project has provided significant advances in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms by which the phy-PIF photosensory signaling pathway regulates an important bioenergy-related plant response to the light environment. The identification of molecular targets in the primary transcriptional-regulatory circuitry of this pathway has the potential to enable genetic or reverse-genetic manipulation of the partitioning of carbon between reproductive and vegetative (cellulose-accumulating) tissue, toward enhanced bioenergy yield.« less
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Regents of the University of California
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE; USDOE Office of Science (SC), Basic Energy Sciences (BES) (SC-22)
Country of Publication:
United States