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.
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.