Phytochrome ancestry: sensors of bilins and light

Trends Plant Sci. 2002 Aug;7(8):357-66. doi: 10.1016/s1360-1385(02)02304-x.


Phytochromes were long thought to have evolved in non-motile photosynthetic eukaryotes for adaptation to unfavorable light environments, but recent studies suggest that phytochromes evolved billions of years earlier from a tetrapyrrole sensor protein progenitor. These investigations have identified phytochromes and phytochrome-related proteins in photosynthetic bacteria (cyanobacteria and purple bacteria), nonphotosynthetic eubacteria and fungi - an observation that has opened new avenues for investigating the origins, molecular evolution and biochemical functions of this ecologically important family of plant photoreceptors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Bile Pigments / metabolism*
  • Eukaryotic Cells / metabolism*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Light*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Photosynthesis
  • Phylogeny
  • Phytochrome / chemistry
  • Phytochrome / metabolism*
  • Prokaryotic Cells / metabolism*
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Bile Pigments
  • Phytochrome