Geomagnetic field impacts on cryptochrome and phytochrome signaling

J Photochem Photobiol B. 2018 Aug:185:32-40. doi: 10.1016/j.jphotobiol.2018.05.027. Epub 2018 May 29.


The geomagnetic field (GMF) is an environmental element whose instability affects plant growth and development. Despite known plant responses to GMF direction and intensity, the mechanism of magnetoreception in plants is still not known. Magnetic field variations affect many light-dependent plant processes, suggesting that the magnetoreception could require light. The objective of this work was to comprehensively investigate the influence of GMF on Arabidopsis thaliana (Col-0) photoreceptor signaling. Wild-type Arabidopsis seedlings and photoreceptor-deficient mutants (cry1cry2, phot1, phyA and phyAphyB) were exposed to near null magnetic field (NNMF, ≤40 nT) and GMF (~43 μT) under darkness and different light wavelengths. The GMF did not alter skotomorphogenic or photomorphogenic seedling development but had a significant impact on gene expression pathways downstream of cryptochrome and phytochrome photoactivation. GMF-induced changes in gene expression observed under blue light were partially associated with an alteration of cryptochrome activation. GMF impacts on phytochrome-regulated gene expression could be attributed to alterations in phytochrome protein abundance that were also dependent on the presence of cry1, cry2 and phot1. Moreover, the GMF was found to impact photomorphogenic-promoting gene expression in etiolated seedlings, indicating the existence of a light-independent magnetoreception mechanism. In conclusion, our data shows that magnetoreception alters photoreceptor signaling in Arabidopsis, but it does not necessarily depend on light.

Keywords: Arabidopsis thaliana; Cryptochromes; Geomagnetic field; Light-regulated genes; Magnetoreception; Photomorphogenesis; Phototropins; Phytochromes; Skotomorphogensis.

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / growth & development
  • Arabidopsis / metabolism*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cryptochromes / genetics
  • Cryptochromes / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant / radiation effects
  • Light
  • Magnetic Fields*
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Mutagenesis
  • Phosphorylation / radiation effects
  • Photolysis / radiation effects
  • Photoreceptors, Plant / genetics
  • Photoreceptors, Plant / metabolism
  • Phytochrome / genetics
  • Phytochrome / metabolism*
  • Seedlings / growth & development
  • Seedlings / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / radiation effects


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Cryptochromes
  • Photoreceptors, Plant
  • Phytochrome