Hierarchical coupling of phytochromes and cryptochromes reconciles stability and light modulation of Arabidopsis development

Development. 2001 Jun;128(12):2291-9.


In plants, development is a continuing process that takes place under strong fluctuations of the light environment. Here we show that in Arabidopsis thaliana plants grown under intense white light, coupling of the photoreceptor cryptochrome 2 to developmental processes is broader than previously appreciated. Compared to the wild type, the cry2 mutant showed reduced activity of a Lhcb1*2 promoter fused to a reporter, and delayed flowering. The cry2 mutation also reduced the inhibition of hypocotyl growth, the unfolding of the cotyledons, the rate of leaf production during the vegetative phase, and the pace of development after transition to the reproductive stage; but these effects were obvious only in the absence of cryptochrome 1 and in some cases phytochrome A and/or phytochrome B. Complementary, the cry2 mutation uncovered novel roles for cryptochrome 1 and phytochrome A. The activity of the Lhcb1*2 promoter was higher in the cry1 cry2 mutant than in the cry2 mutant, suggesting that cry1 could be involved in blue-light repression of photosynthetic genes. Surprisingly, the phyA cry1 cry2 triple mutant flowered earlier and showed better response to photoperiod than the cry1 cry2 double mutant, indicating that phyA is involved in light repression of flowering. Growth and development were severely impaired in the quadruple phyA phyB cry1 cry2 mutant. We propose that stability and light modulation of development are achieved by simultaneous coupling of phytochrome A, phytochrome B, cryptochrome 1 and cryptochrome 2 to developmental processes, in combination with context-dependent hierarchy of their relative activities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Arabidopsis / growth & development
  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Cotyledon / physiology
  • Cryptochromes
  • Drosophila Proteins*
  • Eye Proteins*
  • Flavoproteins / genetics
  • Flavoproteins / physiology*
  • Light
  • Phenotype
  • Photoreceptor Cells*
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Invertebrate*
  • Photosynthetic Reaction Center Complex Proteins* / genetics
  • Phytochrome / genetics
  • Phytochrome / physiology*
  • Phytochrome A
  • Phytochrome B
  • Plant Leaves / physiology
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Time Factors
  • Transcription Factors*


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • CRY1 protein, Arabidopsis
  • Cryptochromes
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Eye Proteins
  • Flavoproteins
  • PHYA protein, Arabidopsis
  • PHYB protein, Arabidopsis
  • Photosynthetic Reaction Center Complex Proteins
  • Phytochrome A
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Transcription Factors
  • cry protein, Drosophila
  • Phytochrome
  • Phytochrome B