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1.  The Cryptochrome Blue Light Receptors 
Cryptochromes are photolyase-like blue light receptors originally discovered in Arabidopsis but later found in other plants, microbes, and animals. Arabidopsis has two cryptochromes, CRY1 and CRY2, which mediate primarily blue light inhibition of hypocotyl elongation and photoperiodic control of floral initiation, respectively. In addition, cryptochromes also regulate over a dozen other light responses, including circadian rhythms, tropic growth, stomata opening, guard cell development, root development, bacterial and viral pathogen responses, abiotic stress responses, cell cycles, programmed cell death, apical dominance, fruit and ovule development, seed dormancy, and magnetoreception. Cryptochromes have two domains, the N-terminal PHR (Photolyase-Homologous Region) domain that bind the chromophore FAD (flavin adenine dinucleotide), and the CCE (CRY C-terminal Extension) domain that appears intrinsically unstructured but critical to the function and regulation of cryptochromes. Most cryptochromes accumulate in the nucleus, and they undergo blue light-dependent phosphorylation or ubiquitination. It is hypothesized that photons excite electrons of the flavin molecule, resulting in redox reaction or circular electron shuttle and conformational changes of the photoreceptors. The photoexcited cryptochrome are phosphorylated to adopt an open conformation, which interacts with signaling partner proteins to alter gene expression at both transcriptional and posttranslational levels and consequently the metabolic and developmental programs of plants.
PMCID: PMC3155252  PMID: 21841916
2.  The action mechanisms of plant cryptochromes 
Trends in Plant Science  2011;16(12):684-691.
The blue light receptors cryptochromes mediate various light responses in plants. The photoexcited cryptochrome molecules undergo a number of biophysical and biochemical changes, including electron transfer, phosphorylation, and ubiquitination, resulting in conformational changes to propagate light signals. Two modes of cryptochrome signal transduction have been recently discovered, the CIB (cryptochrome-interacting basic-helix-loop-helix 1)-dependent CRY2 regulation of transcription and the SPA1/COP1 (SUPPRESSOR OF PHYA /CONSTITUTIVELY PHOTOMORPHOGENIC1)-dependent cryptochrome regulation of proteolysis. Both cryptochrome signaling pathways rely on blue light-dependent interactions between the cryptochrome photoreceptor and its signaling proteins to modulate gene expression changes in response to blue light, leading to altered developmental programs of plants.
PMCID: PMC3277817  PMID: 21983106
3.  Human and Drosophila Cryptochromes Are Light Activated by Flavin Photoreduction in Living Cells  
PLoS Biology  2008;6(7):e160.
Cryptochromes are a class of flavoprotein blue-light signaling receptors found in plants, animals, and humans that control plant development and the entrainment of circadian rhythms. In plant cryptochromes, light activation is proposed to result from photoreduction of a protein-bound flavin chromophore through intramolecular electron transfer. However, although similar in structure to plant cryptochromes, the light-response mechanism of animal cryptochromes remains entirely unknown. To complicate matters further, there is currently a debate on whether mammalian cryptochromes respond to light at all or are instead activated by non–light-dependent mechanisms. To resolve these questions, we have expressed both human and Drosophila cryptochrome proteins to high levels in living Sf21 insect cells using a baculovirus-derived expression system. Intact cells are irradiated with blue light, and the resulting cryptochrome photoconversion is monitored by fluorescence and electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopic techniques. We demonstrate that light induces a change in the redox state of flavin bound to the receptor in both human and Drosophila cryptochromes. Photoreduction from oxidized flavin and subsequent accumulation of a semiquinone intermediate signaling state occurs by a conserved mechanism that has been previously identified for plant cryptochromes. These results provide the first evidence of how animal-type cryptochromes are activated by light in living cells. Furthermore, human cryptochrome is also shown to undergo this light response. Therefore, human cryptochromes in exposed peripheral and/or visual tissues may have novel light-sensing roles that remain to be elucidated.
Author Summary
Vision in animals is generally associated with light-sensitive rhodopsin pigments located in the eyes. However, animals ranging from flies to humans also possess ancient visual receptors known as cryptochromes in multiple cell types. In this work, we study the mechanism of light sensing in two representative animal cryptochromes: a light-sensitive Drosophila cryptochrome (Dmcry) and a presumed light-insensitive mammalian cryptochrome from humans (Hscry1). We expressed recombinant cryptochromes to high levels in living cells, irradiated the cells with blue light, and analyzed the proteins' response to irradiation with electron paramagnetic resonance and fluorescence spectroscopic techniques. Photoreduction of protein-bound oxidized FAD cofactor to its radical form emerged as the primary cryptochrome photoreaction in living cells, and was correlated with a light-sensitive biological response in whole organisms. These results indicate that both Dmcry and Hscry1 are capable of undergoing similar light-driven reactions and suggest the possibility of an as-yet unknown photo-perception role for human cryptochromes in tissues exposed to light.
Cryptochromes are blue-light-absorbing receptors found in plants, animals, and humans. In mammals, they are not thought to respond to light, but this study demonstrates contrary evidence that indeed, human cryptochromes undergo a photochemical transformation in response to light.
PMCID: PMC2443192  PMID: 18597555
4.  A Study of the Blue-Light-Dependent Phosphorylation, Degradation, and Photobody Formation of Arabidopsis CRY2 
Molecular Plant  2012;5(3):200-207.
Arabidopsis cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) is a blue-light receptor mediating blue-light inhibition of hypocotyl elongation and photoperiodic promotion of floral initiation. CRY2 is a constitutive nuclear protein that undergoes blue-light-dependent phosphorylation, ubiquitination, photobody formation, and degradation in the nucleus, but the relationship between these blue-light-dependent events remains unclear. It has been proposed that CRY2 phosphorylation triggers a conformational change responsible for the subsequent ubiquitination and photobody formation, leading to CRY2 function and/or degradation. We tested this hypothesis by a structure-function study, using mutant CRY2–GFP fusion proteins expressed in transgenic Arabidopsis. We show that changes of lysine residues of the NLS (Nuclear Localization Signal) sequence of CRY2 to arginine residues partially impair the nuclear importation of the CRY2K541R and CRY2K554/5R mutant proteins, resulting in reduced phosphorylation, physiological activities, and degradation in response to blue light. In contrast to the wild-type CRY2 protein that forms photobodies exclusively in the nucleus, the CRY2K541R and CRY2K554/5R mutant proteins form protein bodies in both the nucleus and cytosol in response to blue light. These results suggest that photoexcited CRY2 molecules can aggregate to form photobody-like structure without the nucleus-dependent protein modifications or the association with the nuclear CRY2-interacting proteins. Taken together, the observation that CRY2 forms photobodies markedly faster than CRY2 phosphorylation in response to blue light, we hypothesize that the photoexcited cryptochromes form oligomers, preceding other biochemical changes of CRY2, to facilitate photobody formation, signal amplification, and propagation, as well as desensitization by degradation.
PMCID: PMC3355346  PMID: 22311776
protein phosphorylation; signal transduction; fluorescence imaging; protein degradation; photobody
5.  The cryptochromes 
Genome Biology  2005;6(5):220.
Cryptochromes are photoreceptors that regulate entrainment of the circadian clock by light in plants and animals. They are related to DNA photolyases and have similar three-dimensional structures, characterized by a α/β domain and a helical domain and including a chromophore, flavin adenine dinucleotide.
Cryptochromes are photoreceptors that regulate entrainment by light of the circadian clock in plants and animals. They also act as integral parts of the central circadian oscillator in animal brains and as receptors controlling photomorphogenesis in response to blue or ultraviolet (UV-A) light in plants. Cryptochromes are probably the evolutionary descendents of DNA photolyases, which are light-activated DNA-repair enzymes, and are classified into three groups - plant cryptochromes, animal cryptochromes, and CRY-DASH proteins. Cryptochromes and photolyases have similar three-dimensional structures, characterized by an α/β domain and a helical domain. The structure also includes a chromophore, flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD). The FAD-access cavity of the helical domain is the catalytic site of photolyases, and it is predicted also to be important in the mechanism of cryptochromes.
PMCID: PMC1175950  PMID: 15892880
6.  Hypersensitive to Red and Blue 1 and Its Modification by Protein Phosphatase 7 Are Implicated in the Control of Arabidopsis Stomatal Aperture 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(5):e1002674.
The stomatal pores are located on the plant leaf epidermis and regulate CO2 uptake for photosynthesis and the loss of water by transpiration. Their stomatal aperture therefore affects photosynthesis, water use efficiency, and agricultural crop yields. Blue light, one of the environmental signals that regulates the plant stomatal aperture, is perceived by the blue/UV-A light-absorbing cryptochromes and phototropins. The signal transduction cascades that link the perception of light to the stomatal opening response are still largely unknown. Here, we report two new players, Hypersensitive to Red and Blue 1 (HRB1) and Protein Phosphatase 7 (PP7), and their genetic and biochemical interactions in the control of stomatal aperture. Mutations in either HRB1 or PP7 lead to the misregulation of the stomatal aperture and reduce water loss under blue light. Both HRB1 and PP7 are expressed in the guard cells in response to a light-to-dark or dark-to-light transition. HRB1 interacts with PP7 through its N-terminal ZZ-type zinc finger motif and requires a functional PP7 for its stomatal opening response. HRB1 is phosphorylated in vivo, and PP7 can dephosphorylate HRB1. HRB1 is mostly dephosphorylated in a protein complex of 193 kDa in the dark, and blue light increases complex size to 285 kDa. In the pp7 mutant, this size shift is impaired, and HRB1 is predominately phosphorylated. We propose that a modification of HRB1 by PP7 under blue light is essential to acquire a proper conformation or to bring in new components for the assembly of a functional HRB1 protein complex. Guard cells control stomatal opening in response to multiple environmental or biotic stimuli. This study may furnish strategies that allow plants to enjoy the advantages of both constitutive and ABA-induced protection under water-limiting conditions.
Author Summary
Stomatal aperture is regulated by many environmental and biotic cues such as blue light, drought, elevated CO2 concentrations, high humidity, and pathogenic elicitors. Stomatal apertures vary over diurnal cycles, and stomata tend to be open during the day in response to blue light and tend to be closed at night. The blue/UV-A light-absorbing cryptochromes and phototropins are the receptors for the blue light response. We report the action of HRB1, a nuclear ZZ-type zinc finger protein, and PP7, a positive regulator of blue light signaling in the nucleus, in the signal transduction cascades downstream of blue light perception. Both hrb1 and pp7 mutants are more resistant to dehydration and show reductions in both water loss and blue light-regulated stomatal aperture. Our studies on their genetic and biochemical interactions offer novel insights on the network structure of the light signaling machinery and plant interactions with the environment. Periodic drought is one of the major environmental factors that limits biomass production and crop yield in a changing global climate. Our studies may open new possibilities to engineer plants to survive desiccation.
PMCID: PMC3349726  PMID: 22589732
7.  dbCRY: a Web-based comparative and evolutionary genomics platform for blue-light receptors 
Cryptochromes are flavoproteins that play a central role in the circadian oscillations of all living organisms except archaea. Cryptochromes are clustered into three subfamilies: plant-type cryptochromes, animal-type cryptochromes and cryptochrome-DASH proteins. These subfamilies are composed of photolyase/cryptochrome superfamily with 6–4 photolyase and cyclobutane pyrimidine dimer photolyase. Cryptochromes have conserved domain architectures with two distinct domains, an N-terminal photolyase-related domain and a C-terminal domain. Although the molecular function and domain architecture of cryptochromes are conserved, their molecular mechanisms differ between plants and animals. Thus, cryptochromes are one of the best candidates for comparative and evolutionary studies. Here, we have developed a Web-based platform for comparative and evolutionary studies of cryptochromes, dbCRY ( A pipeline built upon the consensus domain profile was applied to 1438 genomes and identified 1309 genes. To support comparative and evolutionary genomics studies, the Web interface provides diverse functions such as (i) browsing by species, (ii) protein domain analysis, (iii) multiple sequence alignment, (iv) homology search and (v) extended analysis opportunities through the implementation of ‘Favorite Browser’ powered by the Comparative Fungal Genomics Platform 2.0 (CFGP 2.0; dbCRY would serve as a standardized and systematic solution for cryptochrome genomics studies.
Database URL:
PMCID: PMC4016680  PMID: 24816342
8.  A Photolyase-Like Protein from Agrobacterium tumefaciens with an Iron-Sulfur Cluster 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26775.
Photolyases and cryptochromes are evolutionarily related flavoproteins with distinct functions. While photolyases can repair UV-induced DNA lesions in a light-dependent manner, cryptochromes regulate growth, development and the circadian clock in plants and animals. Here we report about two photolyase-related proteins, named PhrA and PhrB, found in the phytopathogen Agrobacterium tumefaciens. PhrA belongs to the class III cyclobutane pyrimidine dimer (CPD) photolyases, the sister class of plant cryptochromes, while PhrB belongs to a new class represented in at least 350 bacterial organisms. Both proteins contain flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) as a primary catalytic cofactor, which is photoreduceable by blue light. Spectral analysis of PhrA confirmed the presence of 5,10-methenyltetrahydrofolate (MTHF) as antenna cofactor. PhrB comprises also an additional chromophore, absorbing in the short wavelength region but its spectrum is distinct from known antenna cofactors in other photolyases. Homology modeling suggests that PhrB contains an Fe-S cluster as cofactor which was confirmed by elemental analysis and EPR spectroscopy. According to protein sequence alignments the classical tryptophan photoreduction pathway is present in PhrA but absent in PhrB. Although PhrB is clearly distinguished from other photolyases including PhrA it is, like PhrA, required for in vivo photoreactivation. Moreover, PhrA can repair UV-induced DNA lesions in vitro. Thus, A. tumefaciens contains two photolyase homologs of which PhrB represents the first member of the cryptochrome/photolyase family (CPF) that contains an iron-sulfur cluster.
PMCID: PMC3204975  PMID: 22066008
9.  Trichoderma atroviride PHR1, a Fungal Photolyase Responsible for DNA Repair, Autoregulates Its Own Photoinduction▿  
Eukaryotic Cell  2007;6(9):1682-1692.
The photolyases, DNA repair enzymes that use visible and long-wavelength UV light to repair cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPDs) created by short-wavelength UV, belong to the larger photolyase-cryptochrome gene family. Cryptochromes (UVA-blue light photoreceptors) lack repair activity, and sensory and regulatory roles have been defined for them in plants and animals. Evolutionary considerations indicate that cryptochromes diverged from CPD photolyases before the emergence of eukaryotes. In prokaryotes and lower eukaryotes, some photolyases might have photosensory functions. phr1 codes for a class I CPD photolyase in Trichoderma atroviride. phr1 is rapidly induced by blue and UVA light, and its photoinduction requires functional blue light regulator (BLR) proteins, which are White Collar homologs in Trichoderma. Here we show that deletion of phr1 abolished photoreactivation of UVC (200 to 280 nm)-inhibited spores and thus that PHR1 is the main component of the photorepair system. The 2-kb 5′ upstream region of phr1, with putative light-regulated elements, confers blue light regulation on a reporter gene. To assess phr1 photosensory function, fluence response curves of this light-regulated promoter were tested in null mutant (Δphr1) strains. Photoinduction of the phr1 promoter in Δphr1 strains was >5-fold more sensitive to light than that in the wild type, whereas in PHR1-overexpressing lines the sensitivity to light increased about 2-fold. Our data suggest that PHR1 may regulate its expression in a light-dependent manner, perhaps through negative modulation of the BLR proteins. This is the first evidence for a regulatory role of photolyase, a role usually attributed to cryptochromes.
PMCID: PMC2043357  PMID: 17545314
10.  Analysis of Autophosphorylating Kinase Activities Of Arabidopsis and Human Cryptochromes ζ 
Biochemistry  2006;45(44):13369-13374.
Cryptochromes are FAD-based blue-light photoreceptors that regulate growth and development in plants and the circadian clock in animals. Arabidopsis thaliana and humans possess two cryptochromes. Recently, it was found that Arabidopsis cryptochrome 1 (AtCry1) binds ATP and exhibits autokinase activity that is simulated by blue light. Similarly, it was reported that human cryptochrome 1 (HsCry1) exhibited autophosphorylation activity under blue light. To test the generality of light stimulated kinase function of cryptochromes, we purified AtCry1, AtCry2, HsCry1 and HsCry2 and probed them for kinase activity under a variety of conditions. We find that AtCry1, which contains near stoichiometric amount of FAD and human HsCry1 and HsCry2, which contain only trace amounts of FAD have autokinase activity but AtCry2, which also contains stoichiometric amounts of FAD does not. Finally, we find that the kinase activity of AtCry1 is not significantly affected by light or the redox status of the flavin cofactor.
PMCID: PMC2527022  PMID: 17073458
11.  Blue Light-Dependent Interaction of CRY2 with SPA1 Regulates COP1 activity and Floral Initiation in Arabidopsis 
Current biology : CB  2011;21(10):841-847.
Cryptochromes are blue light receptors that mediate light regulation of gene expression in all major evolution lineages, but the molecular mechanism underlying cryptochrome signal transduction remains not fully understood [1, 2]. It has been reported that cryptochromes suppress activity of the multifunctional E3 ubiquitin ligase CONSTITUTIVE PHOTOMORPHOGENIC 1 (COP1) to regulate gene expression in response to blue light [3, 4]. But how plant cryptochromes mediate light suppression of COP1 activity remains unclear. We report here that Arabidopsis CRY2 (cryptochrome 2) undergoes blue light-dependent interaction with the COP1-interacting protein SUPPRESSOR OF PHYTOCHROME A 1 (SPA1) [5, 6]. We demonstrate that SPA1 acts genetically downstream from CRY2 to mediate blue light suppression of the COP1-dependent proteolysis of the flowering-time regulator CONSTANS (CO) [7, 8]. We further show that blue light-dependent CRY2-SPA1 interaction stimulates CRY2-COP1 interaction. These results reveal for the first time a wavelength-specific mechanism by which a cryptochrome photoreceptor mediates light regulation of protein degradation to modulate developmental timing in Arabidopsis.
PMCID: PMC3150455  PMID: 21514160
12.  Structure of Full-length Drosophila Cryptochrome 
Nature  2011;480(7377):396-399.
The Cryptochrome/Photolyase (CRY/PL) family of photoreceptors mediates adaptive responses to UV and blue light exposure in all kingdoms of life 1; 2; 3; 4; 5. Whereas PLs function predominantly in DNA repair of cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPDs)and 6-4 photolesions caused by UV radiation, CRYs transduce signals important for growth, development, magnetosensitivity and circadian clocks1; 2; 3; 4; 5. Despite these diverse functions, PLs/CRYs preserve a common structural fold, a dependence on flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) and an internal photoactivation mechanism3; 6. However, members of the CRY/PL family differ in the substrates recognized (protein or DNA), photochemical reactions catalyzed and involvement of an antenna cofactor. It is largely unknown how the animal CRYs that regulate circadian rhythms act on their substrates. CRYs contain a variable C-terminal tail that appends the conserved PL homology domain (PHD) and is important for function 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12. Herein, we report a 2.3 Å resolution crystal structure of Drosophila CRY with an intact C-terminus. The C-terminal helix docks in the analogous groove that binds DNA substrates in PLs. Conserved Trp536 juts into the CRY catalytic center to mimic PL recognition of DNA photolesions. The FAD anionic semiquinone found in the crystals assumes a conformation to facilitate restructuring of the tail helix. These results help reconcile the diverse functions of the CRY/PL family by demonstrating how conserved protein architecture, and photochemistry can be elaborated into a range of light-driven functions.
PMCID: PMC3240699  PMID: 22080955
13.  Crystallization and preliminary X-ray analysis of cryptochrome 3 from Arabidopsis thaliana  
Recombinant cryptochrome 3 from A. thaliana with FAD and MTHF cofactors has been crystallized using the hanging-drop vapour-diffusion technique in the orthorhombic space group P212121 and X-ray diffraction data were collected to 1.9 Å resolution.
Cryptochromes are flavoproteins which serve as blue-light receptors in plants, animals, fungi and prokaryotes and belong to the same protein family as the catalytically active DNA photolyases. Cryptochrome 3 from the plant Arabidopsis thaliana (cry3; 525 amino acids, 60.7 kDa) is a representative of the novel cryDASH subfamily of UV-A/blue-light receptors and has been expressed as a mature FAD-containing protein in Escherichia coli without the signal sequence that directs the protein into plant organelles. The purified cryptochrome was found to be complexed to methenyltetrahydrofolate as an antenna pigment. Crystals of the cryptochrome–antenna pigment complex were obtained by vapour diffusion and display orthorhombic symmetry, with unit-cell parameters a = 76.298, b = 116.782, c = 135.024 Å. X-ray diffraction data were collected to 1.9 Å resolution using synchrotron radiation. The asymmetric unit comprises a cry3 dimer, the physiological role of which remains to be elucidated.
PMCID: PMC1991327  PMID: 16511200
cryptochrome 3; light receptors
14.  News about cryptochrome photoreceptors in algae 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2012;8(2):e22870.
Cryptochromes (CRYs) are flavoproteins that are known as blue light photoreceptors in many organisms. Recently, genome sequences from a variety of algae became available. Functional characterizations of animal-like CRYs from Oestreococcus tauri, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and Phaeodactylum tricornutum highlighted novel functions and properties. As arising from studies in fungi, certain algal CRYs of the “cryptochrome photolyase family” (PtCPF1, OtCPF1) have dual or even triple functions. They are involved in blue light perception and/or in the circadian clock and are able to repair DNA damages. On the other hand, the animal-like aCRY from C. reinhardtii is not only acting as sensory blue light- but also as sensory red light receptor thus expanding our current view of flavoproteins in general and CRYs in particular. The observed broad spectral response points to the neutral radical state of flavin, which is assumed to be the dark form in aCRY in contrast to the plant CRYs.
PMCID: PMC3656988  PMID: 23154511
Chlamydomonas reinhardtii; cryptochrome; blue light photoreceptor; red light photoreceptor; photolyase; flavoprotein
15.  The Potorous CPD Photolyase Rescues a Cryptochrome-Deficient Mammalian Circadian Clock 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23447.
Despite the sequence and structural conservation between cryptochromes and photolyases, members of the cryptochrome/photolyase (flavo)protein family, their functions are divergent. Whereas photolyases are DNA repair enzymes that use visible light to lesion-specifically remove UV-induced DNA damage, cryptochromes act as photoreceptors and circadian clock proteins. To address the functional diversity of cryptochromes and photolyases, we investigated the effect of ectopically expressed Arabidopsis thaliana (6-4)PP photolyase and Potorous tridactylus CPD-photolyase (close and distant relatives of mammalian cryptochromes, respectively), on the performance of the mammalian cryptochromes in the mammalian circadian clock. Using photolyase transgenic mice, we show that Potorous CPD-photolyase affects the clock by shortening the period of behavioral rhythms. Furthermore, constitutively expressed CPD-photolyase is shown to reduce the amplitude of circadian oscillations in cultured cells and to inhibit CLOCK/BMAL1 driven transcription by interacting with CLOCK. Importantly, we show that Potorous CPD-photolyase can restore the molecular oscillator in the liver of (clock-deficient) Cry1/Cry2 double knockout mice. These data demonstrate that a photolyase can act as a true cryptochrome. These findings shed new light on the importance of the core structure of mammalian cryptochromes in relation to its function in the circadian clock and contribute to our further understanding of the evolution of the cryptochrome/photolyase protein family.
PMCID: PMC3156801  PMID: 21858120
16.  Investigation of Real-Time Photorepair Activity on DNA via Surface Plasmon Resonance 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e44392.
The cyclobutane pyrimidine dimer (CPD) and 6–4 lesion formations along with the specific breaks on strands are the most common type of DNA damage caused by Ultraviolet light (UV) irradiation. CPD photolyase I and II construct two subfamilies of flavoproteins, which have recognition and repair capabilities of CPD sites on both single stranded (ssDNA) and double stranded DNA (dsDNA) with the aid of blue light energy. The other types of flavoprotein family consist of cryptochromes (CRY) that act as photoreceptors in plants, or circadian rhythm regulators in animals. Recent findings showed that a specific type of Cryptochrome-Drosophila, Arabidopsis, Synechocystis, Human (CRY-DASH) has photorepair activity on ssDNA. In this work, real-time interactions between CRY-DASH and ss/dsDNA as well as the interactions between Vibrio cholerae photolyase (VcPHR) and ss/dsDNA were investigated using Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR). The interactions were then characterized and compared in order to investigate the effect of different types of flavoprotein on UV damaged ss/dsDNA. SPR results confirm the specific binding of VcPHR and CRY-DASH with UV treated DNA. This study is the first instance to quantify the interactions of UV treated and untreated DNA with flavoproteins.
PMCID: PMC3430658  PMID: 22952969
17.  Functional Evolution of the Photolyase/Cryptochrome Protein Family: Importance of the C Terminus of Mammalian CRY1 for Circadian Core Oscillator Performance†  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;26(5):1743-1753.
Cryptochromes (CRYs) are composed of a core domain with structural similarity to photolyase and a distinguishing C-terminal extension. While plant and fly CRYs act as circadian photoreceptors, using the C terminus for light signaling, mammalian CRY1 and CRY2 are integral components of the circadian oscillator. However, the function of their C terminus remains to be resolved. Here, we show that the C-terminal extension of mCRY1 harbors a nuclear localization signal and a putative coiled-coil domain that drive nuclear localization via two independent mechanisms and shift the equilibrium of shuttling mammalian CRY1 (mCRY1)/mammalian PER2 (mPER2) complexes towards the nucleus. Importantly, deletion of the complete C terminus prevents mCRY1 from repressing CLOCK/BMAL1-mediated transcription, whereas a plant photolyase gains this key clock function upon fusion to the last 100 amino acids of the mCRY1 core and its C terminus. Thus, the acquirement of different (species-specific) C termini during evolution not only functionally separated cryptochromes from photolyase but also caused diversity within the cryptochrome family.
PMCID: PMC1430250  PMID: 16478995
18.  Plant cryptochromes employ complicated mechanisms for subcellular localization and are involved in pathways apart from photomorphogenesis 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2009;4(3):200-201.
Cryptochromes (CRYs) are photoreceptors mediating developmental responses to blue light throughout the life of plants. Function and signal transduction of CRYs in photomorphogenesis have been well characterized in Arabidopsis. Studies on rice CRYs demonstrate that monocots CRYs may function similarly to their Arabidopsis counterparts. However, there is inconsistency in subcellular localization of CRYs in different species and little has been known about the effects of environmental cues on CRYs except for light. We recently reported that TaCRY1a of monocot wheat displays a light-responsive nucleocytoplasmic shuttling pattern similar to Arabidopsis CRY1 but differs from AtCRY1 and OsCRY1 by containing nuclear localization domains in both its N and C termini and the sequence for nuclear export in its N-terminal domain. TaCRY1a and TaCRY2 are transcriptionally regulated by osmotic stress/ABA and overexpression of TaCRY1a-GFP and TaCRY2-GFP led to higher sensitivity to high salinity, osmotic stress and ABA treatment. Mining wheat EST database provided additional clues for CRY's involvement in pathways apart from photomorphogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2652527  PMID: 19721748
cryptochrome; signal transduction; stress; subcellular localization; wheat
19.  More Than a Repair Enzyme: Aspergillus nidulans Photolyase-like CryA Is a Regulator of Sexual Development 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2008;19(8):3254-3262.
Cryptochromes are blue-light receptors that have presumably evolved from the DNA photolyase protein family, and the genomes of many organisms contain genes for both types of molecules. Both protein structures resemble each other, which suggests that light control and light protection share a common ancient origin. In the genome of the filamentous fungus Aspergillus nidulans, however, only one cryptochrome/photolyase-encoding gene, termed cryA, was identified. Deletion of the cryA gene triggers sexual differentiation under inappropriate culture conditions and results in up-regulation of transcripts encoding regulators of fruiting body formation. CryA is a protein whose N- and C-terminal synthetic green fluorescent protein fusions localize to the nucleus. CryA represses sexual development under UVA350-370 nm light both on plates and in submerged culture. Strikingly, CryA exhibits photorepair activity as demonstrated by heterologous complementation of a DNA repair-deficient Escherichia coli strain as well as overexpression in an A. nidulans uvsBΔ genetic background. This is in contrast to the single deletion cryAΔ strain, which does not show increased sensitivity toward UV-induced damage. In A. nidulans, cryA encodes a novel type of cryptochrome/photolyase that exhibits a regulatory function during light-dependent development and DNA repair activity. This represents a paradigm for the evolutionary transition between photolyases and cryptochromes.
PMCID: PMC2488289  PMID: 18495868
20.  Searching for a photocycle of the cryptochrome photoreceptors 
Current opinion in plant biology  2010;13(5):578-586.
The initial photochemistry of plant cryptochromes has been extensively investigated in recent years. It is hypothesized that cryptochrome photoexcitation involves a Trp-triad-dependent photoreduction. According to this hypothesis, cryptochromes in the resting state contain oxidized FAD; light triggers a sequential electron transfer from three tryptophan residues to reduce FAD to a neutral semiquinone (FADH•); FADH• is the presumed signaling state and it is re-oxidized to complete the photocycle. However, this photoreduction hypothesis is currently under debate. An alternative model argues that the initial photochemistry of cryptochromes involves a photolyase-like cyclic electron shuttle without a bona fide redox reaction mediated by the Trp-triad residues, leading to conformational changes, signal propagation, and physiological responses.
PMCID: PMC2972227  PMID: 20943427
21.  Cryptochrome Mediates Light-Dependent Magnetosensitivity of Drosophila's Circadian Clock 
PLoS Biology  2009;7(4):e1000086.
Since 1960, magnetic fields have been discussed as Zeitgebers for circadian clocks, but the mechanism by which clocks perceive and process magnetic information has remained unknown. Recently, the radical-pair model involving light-activated photoreceptors as magnetic field sensors has gained considerable support, and the blue-light photoreceptor cryptochrome (CRY) has been proposed as a suitable molecule to mediate such magnetosensitivity. Since CRY is expressed in the circadian clock neurons and acts as a critical photoreceptor of Drosophila's clock, we aimed to test the role of CRY in magnetosensitivity of the circadian clock. In response to light, CRY causes slowing of the clock, ultimately leading to arrhythmic behavior. We expected that in the presence of applied magnetic fields, the impact of CRY on clock rhythmicity should be altered. Furthermore, according to the radical-pair hypothesis this response should be dependent on wavelength and on the field strength applied. We tested the effect of applied static magnetic fields on the circadian clock and found that flies exposed to these fields indeed showed enhanced slowing of clock rhythms. This effect was maximal at 300 μT, and reduced at both higher and lower field strengths. Clock response to magnetic fields was present in blue light, but absent under red-light illumination, which does not activate CRY. Furthermore, cryb and cryOUT mutants did not show any response, and flies overexpressing CRY in the clock neurons exhibited an enhanced response to the field. We conclude that Drosophila's circadian clock is sensitive to magnetic fields and that this sensitivity depends on light activation of CRY and on the applied field strength, consistent with the radical pair mechanism. CRY is widespread throughout biological systems and has been suggested as receptor for magnetic compass orientation in migratory birds. The present data establish the circadian clock of Drosophila as a model system for CRY-dependent magnetic sensitivity. Furthermore, given that CRY occurs in multiple tissues of Drosophila, including those potentially implicated in fly orientation, future studies may yield insights that could be applicable to the magnetic compass of migratory birds and even to potential magnetic field effects in humans.
Author Summary
Magnetic fields influence endogenous clocks controlling the sleep–wake cycle of animals, but the underyling mechanisms are unclear. Birds that can do magnetic compass orientation also depend on light, and the blue-light photopigment cryptochrome was proposed to act as a navigational magnetosensor. Here we tested the role of cryptochrome as a light-dependent magnetosensor of the clock in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. In wild-type flies we found that constant magnetic fields slowed down the speed of the clock in a dose-dependent manner—but only in the presence of blue light. In mutants lacking functional cryptochrome, the magnetic fields had no significant effects on the endogenous clock, whereas the effects were enhanced after overexpression of cryptochrome. Our data suggest that cryptochrome works as a magnetosensor in the endogenous clock when it is excited by blue light. Our work supports previous data showing that fruit flies need functional cryptochrome to perceive a magnetic field, demonstrating that the interaction of cryptochome and magnetic fields are not just for the birds.
The molecular clock of the fruit fly is sensitive to magnetic fields in a manner dependent on blue light and the photopigment cryptochrome.
PMCID: PMC2667543  PMID: 19355790
22.  Multiple bHLH Proteins form Heterodimers to Mediate CRY2-Dependent Regulation of Flowering-Time in Arabidopsis 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(10):e1003861.
Arabidopsis thaliana cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) mediates light control of flowering time. CIB1 (CRY2-interacting bHLH 1) specifically interacts with CRY2 in response to blue light to activate the transcription of FT (Flowering Locus T). In vitro, CIB1 binds to the canonical E-box (CACGTG, also referred to as G-box) with much higher affinity than its interaction with non-canonical E-box (CANNTG) DNA sequences. However, in vivo, CIB1 binds to the chromatin region of the FT promoter, which only contains the non-canonical E-box sequences. Here, we show that CRY2 also interacts with at least CIB5, in response to blue light, but not in darkness or in response to other wavelengths of light. Our genetic analysis demonstrates that CIB1, CIB2, CIB4, and CIB5 act redundantly to activate the transcription of FT and that they are positive regulators of CRY2 mediated flowering. More importantly, CIB1 and other CIBs proteins form heterodimers, and some of the heterodimers have a higher binding affinity than the CIB homodimers to the non-canonical E-box in the in vitro DNA-binding assays. This result explains why in vitro CIB1 and other CIBs bind to the canonical E-box (G-box) with a higher affinity, whereas they are all associated with the non-canonical E-boxes at the FT promoter in vivo. Consistent with the hypothesis that different CIB proteins play similar roles in the CRY2-midiated blue light signaling, the expression of CIB proteins is regulated specifically by blue light. Our study demonstrates that CIBs function redundantly in regulating CRY2-dependent flowering, and that different CIBs form heterodimers to interact with the non-canonical E-box DNA in vivo.
Author Summary
Arabidopsis thaliana blue light receptor cryptochromes (CRYs) mediate light control of flowering time by interacting with CIB1 (CRY2-interacting bHLH1) in response to blue light. However, it remains unclear how the blue light-dependent CRY2-CIB1 interaction affects the FT transcription. We report here that in addition to CIB1, CRY2 also interact with CIB1 related bHLH proteins, CIBs. These CIBs act redundantly with CIB1 to activate the transcription of FT and flowering. More importantly, CIB1 and the CIBs can form heterodimers and some of those heterodimers have a higher binding affinity to the non-canonical E-box, although their homodimers all prefer canonical E-box (G-box), so they can bind to the non-canonical E-Box sequences of the FT promoter. This is the first example in plants that heterodimerization of bHLH can change the DNA binding affinity or specificity. CIB proteins are involved in blue light signaling and they are specifically stabilized by blue light.
PMCID: PMC3794922  PMID: 24130508
23.  Comparative Photochemistry of Animal Type 1 and Type 4 Cryptochromes† 
Biochemistry  2009;48(36):8585-8593.
Cryptochromes (CRYs) are blue-light photoreceptors with known or presumed functions in light-dependent and light-independent gene regulation in plants and animals. Although the photochemistry of plant CRYs has been studied in some detail, the photochemical behavior of animal cryptochromes remains poorly defined in part because it has been difficult to purify animal CRYs with their flavin cofactors. Here we describe the purification of type 4 CRYs of zebrafish and chicken as recombinant proteins with full flavin complement and compare the spectroscopic properties of type 4 and type 1 CRYs. In addition, we analyzed photoinduced proteolytic degradation of both types of CRYs in vivo in heterologous systems. We find that even though both types of CRYs contain stoichiometric flavin, type 1 CRY is proteolytically degraded by a light-initiated reaction in Drosophila S2, zebrafish Z3, and human HEK293T cell lines, but zebrafish CRY4 (type 4) is not. In vivo degradation of type 1 CRYs does not require continuous illumination, and a single light flash of 1 ms duration leads to degradation of about 80% of Drosophila CRY in 60 min. Finally, we demonstrate that in contrast to animal type 2 CRYs and Arabidopsis CRY1 neither insect type 1 nor type 4 CRYs have autokinase activities.
PMCID: PMC2739604  PMID: 19663499
24.  SCFFbxl3 Ubiquitin Ligase Targets Cryptochromes at Their Cofactor Pocket 
Nature  2013;496(7443):64-68.
The flavoprotein cryptochromes (CRYs) act as blue-light receptors in plants and insects, but perform light-independent functions at the core of the mammalian circadian clock. To drive clock oscillations, mammalian CRYs associate with the Period proteins (PERs) and together inhibit the transcription of their own genes. The SCFFbxl3 ubiquitin ligase complex controls this negative feedback loop by promoting CRY ubiquitylation and degradation. Yet, the molecular mechanisms of their interactions and the functional role of flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) binding in CRYs remain poorly understood. Here we report crystal structures of mammalian CRY2 in its apo, FAD-bound, and Fbxl3-Skp1-complexed forms. Distinct from other cryptochromes of known structures, mammalian CRY2 binds FAD dynamically with an open cofactor pocket. Strikingly, the F-box protein Fbxl3 captures CRY2 by simultaneously occupying its FAD-binding pocket with a conserved C-terminal tail and burying its PER-binding interface. This novel F-box protein-substrate bipartite interaction is susceptible to disruption by both FAD and PERs, suggesting a new avenue for pharmacological targeting of the complex and a multifaceted regulatory mechanism of CRY ubiquitylation.
PMCID: PMC3618506  PMID: 23503662
25.  Ultrafast dynamics and anionic active states of the flavin cofactor in cryptochrome and photolyase 
We report here our systematic studies of the dynamics of four redox states of the flavin cofactor in both photolyases and insect Type 1 cryptochromes. With femtosecond resolution, we observed ultrafast photoreduction of oxidized state (FAD) in subpicosecond and of neutral radical semiquinone (FADH•) in tens of picoseconds through intraprotein electron transfer mainly with a neighboring conserved tryptophan triad. Such ultrafast dynamics make these forms of flavin unlikely to be the functional states of the photolyase/cryptochrome family. In contrast, we find that upon excitation the anionic semiquinone (FAD•-) and hydroquinone (FADH-) have longer lifetimes that are compatible with high-efficiency intermolecular electron transfer reactions. In photolyases, the excited active state (FADH-*) has a long (nanosecond) lifetime optimal for DNA-repair function. In insect Type 1 cryptochromes known to be blue-light photoreceptors the excited active form (FAD•-*) has complex deactivation dynamics on the time scale from a few to hundreds of picoseconds, which is believed to occur through conical intersection(s) with a flexible bending motion to modulate the functional channel. These unique properties of anionic flavins suggest a universal mechanism of electron transfer for the initial functional steps of the photolyase/cryptochrome blue-light photoreceptor family.
PMCID: PMC2661107  PMID: 18500802

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