The cryptochromes: blue light photoreceptors in plants and animals

Annu Rev Plant Biol. 2011;62:335-64. doi: 10.1146/annurev-arplant-042110-103759.


Cryptochromes are flavoprotein photoreceptors first identified in Arabidopsis thaliana, where they play key roles in growth and development. Subsequently identified in prokaryotes, archaea, and many eukaryotes, cryptochromes function in the animal circadian clock and are proposed as magnetoreceptors in migratory birds. Cryptochromes are closely structurally related to photolyases, evolutionarily ancient flavoproteins that catalyze light-dependent DNA repair. Here, we review the structural, photochemical, and molecular properties of cry-DASH, plant, and animal cryptochromes in relation to biological signaling mechanisms and uncover common features that may contribute to better understanding the function of cryptochromes in diverse systems including in man.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cryptochromes / chemistry
  • Cryptochromes / classification
  • Cryptochromes / physiology*
  • DNA Repair
  • Deoxyribodipyrimidine Photo-Lyase / chemistry
  • Deoxyribodipyrimidine Photo-Lyase / classification
  • Deoxyribodipyrimidine Photo-Lyase / physiology
  • Homing Behavior
  • Insecta / physiology
  • Light Signal Transduction*
  • Magnetics
  • Mice
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Phosphorylation / physiology
  • Plants / metabolism*


  • Cryptochromes
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Deoxyribodipyrimidine Photo-Lyase