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Modulation of Structural Heterogeneity Controls Phytochrome Photoswitching

Journal article
Authors Emil Gustavsson
Linnéa Isaksson
Cecilia Persson
Maxim Mayzel
Ulrika Brath
Lidija Vrhovac
J. A. Ihalainen
B Göran Karlsson
Vladislav Orekhov
Sebastian Westenhoff
Published in Biophysical Journal
Volume 118
Issue 2
Pages 415-421
ISSN 0006-3495
Publication year 2020
Published at Swedish NMR Centre at Göteborg University
Department of Chemistry and Molecular Biology
Pages 415-421
Language en
Keywords crystal-structure, secondary structure, nmr-spectroscopy, chromophore, cyanobacteriochrome, photoconversion, proteins, reveals, light, form, Biophysics
Subject categories Biophysics


Phytochromes sense red/far-red light and control many biological processes in plants, fungi, and bacteria. Although the crystal structures of dark- and light-adapted states have been determined, the molecular mechanisms underlying photoactivation remain elusive. Here, we demonstrate that the conserved tongue region of the PHY domain of a 57-kDa photosensory module of Deinococcus radiodurans phytochrome changes from a structurally heterogeneous dark state to an ordered, light-activated state. The results were obtained in solution by utilizing a laser-triggered activation approach detected on the atomic level with high-resolution protein NMR spectroscopy. The data suggest that photosignaling of phytochromes relies on careful modulation of structural heterogeneity of the PHY tongue.

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