In higher plants, natural radiation simultaneously activates more than one photoreceptor. Five phytochromes (phyA through phyD), two cryptochromes (cry1, cry2) and phototropin have been identified in the model species Arabidopsis thaliana. There is light-dependent epistasis among certain photoreceptor genes because the action of one pigment can be affected by the activity of others. Under red light, phyA and phyB are antagonistic, but under far-red light, followed by brief red light, phyA and phyB are synergistic in the control of seedling morphology and the expression of some genes during de-etiolation. Under short photoperiods of red and blue light, cry1 and phyB are synergistic, but under continuous exposure to the same light field the actions of phyB and cry1 become independent and additive. Phototropic bending of the shoot toward unilateral blue light is mediated by phototropin, but cry1, cry2, phyA and phyB positively regulate the response. Finally, cry2 and phyB are antagonistic in the induction of flowering. At least some of these interactions are likely to result from cross talk of the photoreceptor signaling pathways and uncover new avenues to approach signal transduction. Experiments under natural radiation are beginning to show that the interactions create a phototransduction network with emergent properties. This provides a more robust system for light perception in plants.
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Vol. 71 • No. 1