The phytochrome family of photoreceptors monitors the light environment and dictates patterns of gene expression that enable the plant to optimize growth and development in accordance with prevailing conditions. The enduring challenge is to define the biochemical mechanism of phytochrome action and to dissect the signaling circuitry by which the photoreceptor molecules relay sensory information to the genes they regulate. Evidence indicates that individual phytochromes have specialized photosensory functions. The amino-terminal domain of the molecule determines this photosensory specificity, whereas a short segment in the carboxyl-terminal domain is critical for signal transfer to downstream components. Heterotrimeric GTP-binding proteins, calcium-calmodulin, cyclic guanosine 5'-phosphate, and the COP-DET-FUS class of master regulators are implicated as signaling intermediates in phototransduction.
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