Fungi, hidden in soil or up in the air: light makes a difference

Annu Rev Microbiol. 2010;64:585-610. doi: 10.1146/annurev.micro.112408.134000.


Light is one of the most important environmental factors for orientation of almost all organisms on Earth. Whereas light sensing is of crucial importance in plants to optimize light-dependent energy conservation, in nonphotosynthetic organisms, the synchronization of biological clocks to the length of a day is an important function. Filamentous fungi may use the light signal as an indicator for the exposure of hyphae to air and adapt their physiology to this situation or induce morphogenetic pathways. Although a yes/no decision appears to be sufficient for the light-sensing function in fungi, most species apply a number of different, wavelength-specific receptors. The core of all receptor types is a chromophore, a low-molecular-weight organic molecule, such as flavin, retinal, or linear tetrapyrrols for blue-, green-, or red-light sensing, respectively. Whereas the blue-light response in fungi is one of the best-studied light responses, all other light-sensing mechanisms are less well studied or largely unknown. The discovery of phytochrome in bacteria and fungi in recent years not only advanced the scientific field significantly, but also had great impact on our view of the evolution of phytochrome-like photoreceptors.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Fungal Proteins / genetics
  • Fungal Proteins / metabolism
  • Fungi / genetics
  • Fungi / physiology*
  • Light Signal Transduction*
  • Light*
  • Photoreceptors, Microbial / physiology*


  • Fungal Proteins
  • Photoreceptors, Microbial