Novel phytochrome sequences in Arabidopsis thaliana: structure, evolution, and differential expression of a plant regulatory photoreceptor family

Genes Dev. 1989 Nov;3(11):1745-57. doi: 10.1101/gad.3.11.1745.


Phytochrome is a plant regulatory photoreceptor that mediates red light effects on a wide variety of physiological and molecular responses. DNA blot analysis indicates that the Arabidopsis thaliana genome contains four to five phytochrome-related gene sequences. We have isolated and sequenced cDNA clones corresponding to three of these genes and have deduced the amino acid sequence of the full-length polypeptide encoded in each case. One of these proteins (phyA) shows 65-80% amino acid sequence identity with the major, etiolated-tissue phytochrome apoproteins described previously in other plant species. The other two polypeptides (phyB and phyC) are unique in that they have low sequence identity (approximately 50%) with each other, with phyA, and with all previously described phytochromes. The phyA, phyB, and phyC proteins are of similar molecular mass, have related hydropathic profiles, and contain a conserved chromophore attachment region. However, the sequence comparison data indicate that the three phy genes diverged early in plant evolution, well before the divergence of the two major groups of angiosperms, the monocots and dicots. The steady-state level of the phyA transcript is high in dark-grown A. thaliana seedlings and is down-regulated by light. In contrast, the phyB and phyC transcripts are present at lower levels and are not strongly light-regulated. These findings indicate that the red/far light-responsive phytochrome photoreceptor system in A. thaliana, and perhaps in all higher plants, consists of a family of chromoproteins that are heterogeneous in structure and regulation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Base Sequence
  • Biological Evolution
  • Blotting, Southern
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA / isolation & purification
  • Genes, Plant*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Phytochrome / genetics*
  • Plant Proteins / genetics*
  • Plants / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid


  • Plant Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Phytochrome
  • DNA