Phytochromes are red light (R) and far-red light (FR) receptors that play important roles in many aspects of plant growth and development. Phytochromes mainly function in the nucleus and regulate sets of genes by inhibiting negatively acting basic helix-loop-helix transcription factors named PHYTOCHROME INTERACTING FACTORs (PIFs) in Arabidopsis thaliana Although R/FR photoreversible responses and phytochrome genes are well documented in diverse lineages of plants, the extent to which phytochrome signaling is mediated by gene regulation beyond angiosperms remains largely unclear. Here, we show that the liverwort Marchantia polymorpha, an emerging model basal land plant, has only one phytochrome gene, Mp-PHY, and only one PIF gene, Mp-PIF These genes mediate typical low fluence responses, which are reversibly elicited by R and FR, and regulate gene expression. Mp-phy is light-stable and translocates into the nucleus upon irradiation with either R or FR, demonstrating that the single phytochrome Mp-phy exhibits combined biochemical and cell-biological characteristics of type I and type II phytochromes. Mp-phy photoreversibly regulates gemma germination and downstream gene expression by interacting with Mp-PIF and targeting it for degradation in an R-dependent manner. Our findings suggest that the molecular mechanisms for light-dependent transcriptional regulation mediated by PIF transcription factors were established early in land plant evolution.
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