ATP binding turns plant cryptochrome into an efficient natural photoswitch

Sci Rep. 2014 Jun 5:4:5175. doi: 10.1038/srep05175.


Cryptochromes are flavoproteins that drive diverse developmental light-responses in plants and participate in the circadian clock in animals. Plant cryptochromes have found application as photoswitches in optogenetics. We have studied effects of pH and ATP on the functionally relevant photoreduction of the oxidized FAD cofactor to the semi-reduced FADH(·) radical in isolated Arabidopsis cryptochrome 1 by transient absorption spectroscopy on nanosecond to millisecond timescales. In the absence of ATP, the yield of light-induced radicals strongly decreased with increasing pH from 6.5 to 8.5. With ATP present, these yields were significantly higher and virtually pH-independent up to pH 9. Analysis of our data in light of the crystallographic structure suggests that ATP-binding shifts the pKa of aspartic acid D396, the putative proton donor to FAD·(-), from ~7.4 to >9, and favours a reaction pathway yielding long-lived aspartate D396(-). Its negative charge could trigger conformational changes necessary for signal transduction.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism*
  • Algorithms
  • Arabidopsis / growth & development
  • Arabidopsis / metabolism*
  • Arabidopsis / radiation effects
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cryptochromes / chemistry
  • Cryptochromes / metabolism*
  • Cryptochromes / radiation effects
  • Light*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Protein Conformation
  • Quantum Theory
  • Signal Transduction / radiation effects
  • Spectrophotometry, Ultraviolet


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Cryptochromes
  • Adenosine Triphosphate