The Influence of a Cryptochrome on the Gene Expression Profile in the Diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum under Blue Light and in Darkness

Plant Cell Physiol. 2017 Nov 1;58(11):1914-1923. doi: 10.1093/pcp/pcx127.


Diatoms, albeit being only distantly related with higher plants, harbor a plant-like cryptochrome (CryP) that was proposed to act as a photoreceptor required for the regulation of some photosynthetic proteins. Plant cryptochromes are involved in the regulation of developmental processes relevant only to multicellular organisms. Their role in the unicellular diatoms to date is mostly enigmatic. To elucidate the function of this plant-like cryptochrome in a unicellular species, we examined the role of CryP in the regulation of transcription in the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum by comparative RNA-seq of wild type and CryP knock-down mutants, under prolonged darkness and one hour after onset of blue light. In total, mRNAs of 12,298 genes were identified and more than 70% of the genes could be sorted into functional bins. CryP influenced groups of transcripts in three different ways: some transcripts displayed altered expression under blue light only, others independent of the light condition, and, surprisingly, some were influenced by CryP only in darkness. Genes regulated in any condition were distributed over almost all functional categories. CryP exerted an influence on two other photoreceptors: the genes encoding phytochrome and CPF1, another cryptochrome, which were down-regulated by CryP independent of the light condition. However, the regulatory responses of the affected photoreceptors on transcriptional output were independent. The influence of CryP on the expression of other photoreceptors hints to the existence of a regulatory signaling network in diatoms that includes several cryptochromes and phytochrome, whereby CryP acts as a regulator of transcript abundance under light as well as in darkness.

Keywords: RNA-seq; blue-light response; cryptochrome photolyase family; photoreceptor.

MeSH terms

  • Cryptochromes / genetics*
  • Cryptochromes / metabolism
  • Darkness
  • Diatoms / genetics
  • Diatoms / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Light
  • Mutation
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Transcriptome*


  • Cryptochromes