Phytochrome higher order mutants reveal a complex set of light responses in the moss Physcomitrium patens

New Phytol. 2023 Aug;239(3):1035-1050. doi: 10.1111/nph.18977. Epub 2023 May 23.


Phytochromes are photoreceptors enabling plants to respond to various light conditions. Independent gene duplications resulted in small phytochrome families in mosses, ferns and seed plants. This phytochrome diversity is hypothesised to be critical for sensing and adapting to different light conditions, but experimental evidence for this idea is lacking for mosses and ferns. The moss model species Physcomitrium patens contains seven phytochromes grouped into three clades, PHY1/3, PHY2/4 and PHY5. Here, we used CRISPR/Cas9-generated single and higher order mutants to investigate their role in light regulation of protonema and gametophore growth, protonema branching and induction of gametophores. We found both specific and partially overlapping roles for the three phytochrome clades in regulating these responses in different light conditions. PHY1/3 clade phytochromes act as primary far-red light receptors, while PHY5 clade phytochromes are the primary red light receptors. PHY2/4 clade phytochromes have functions in both red and far-red light. We also observed that PHY1/3 and PHY2/4 clade phytochromes promote gametophore growth in simulated canopy shade and also play a role in blue light. Similar to seed plants, gene duplications in the phytochrome lineage in mosses were followed by functional diversification into red and far-red light-sensing phytochromes.

Keywords: Physcomitrium patens; evolution of light signalling; functional diversification; photomorphogenesis; phytochrome; subfunctionalisation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bryophyta*
  • Bryopsida* / genetics
  • Ferns*
  • Phytochrome* / genetics
  • Plants


  • Phytochrome