Decoding of light signals by plant phytochromes and their interacting proteins

Annu Rev Plant Biol. 2008;59:281-311. doi: 10.1146/annurev.arplant.59.032607.092859.


Phytochromes are red/far-red light photoreceptors that convert the information contained in external light into biological signals. The decoding process starts with the perception of red light, which occurs through photoisomerization of a chromophore located within the phytochrome, leading to structural changes that include the disruption of intramolecular interactions between the N- and C-terminal domains of the phytochrome. This disruption exposes surfaces required for interactions with other proteins. In contrast, the perception of far-red light reverses the photoisomerization, restores the intramolecular interaction, and closes the interacting surfaces. Light information represented by the concentration of opened interacting surfaces is converted into biological signals through the modulating activity of interacting proteins. This review summarizes plant phytochromes, phytochrome-interacting proteins, and signal transmission from phytochromes to their interacting proteins.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Nucleus / physiology
  • Germination
  • Light*
  • Multigene Family
  • Phytochrome / genetics
  • Phytochrome / metabolism*
  • Plant Physiological Phenomena*
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism*
  • Plants / genetics*
  • Seeds / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Plant Proteins
  • Phytochrome