Plants can detect the presence of light using specialised photoreceptor proteins. These photoreceptors measure the intensity of light, but they can also respond to different spectra of light and thus 'see' different colours. Cryptochromes, which are also present in animals, are flavin-based photoreceptors that enable plants to detect blue and ultraviolet-A (UV-A) light. In Arabidopsis, there are two cryptochromes, CRYPTOCHROME 1 (CRY1) and CRYPTOCHROME 2 (CRY2) with known sensory roles. They function in various processes such as blue-light mediated inhibition of hypocotyl elongation, photoperiodic promotion of floral initiation, cotyledon expansion, anthocyanin production, and magnetoreception, to name a few. In the dark, the cryptochromes are in an inactive monomeric state and undergo photochemical and conformational change in response to illumination. This results in flavin reduction, oligomerisation, and the formation of the 'cryptochrome complexome'. Mechanisms of cryptochrome activation and signalling have been extensively studied and found to be conserved across phylogenetic lines. In this review, we will therefore focus on a far lesser-known mechanism of regulation that is unique to plant cryptochromes. This involves inhibition of cryptochrome activity by small proteins that prevent its dimerisation in response to light. The resulting inhibition of function cause profound alterations in economically important traits such as plant growth, flowering, and fruit production. This review will describe the known mechanisms of cryptochrome activation and signalling in the context of their modulation by these endogenous and artificial small inhibitor proteins. Promising new applications for biotechnological and agricultural applications will be discussed.
Keywords: cryptochrome; light signaling; microproteins.
© 2022 The Author(s).