Apr 5, 2020

Signaling mechanism of phytochromes in solution

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
E. GustavssonSebastian Westenhoff


Phytochrome proteins guide the red/far-red photoresponse of plants, fungi, and bacteria. The proteins change their structure in response to light, thereby altering their biochemical activity. Crystal structures suggest that the mechanism of signal transduction involves refolding of the so-called PHY tongue, but the two other notable structural features of the phytochrome superfamily, the helical spine and a figure-of-eight knot, have not been implied in the signaling mechanism. Here, we present solution NMR data of the complete photosensory core module from D. radiodurans (DrBphP). Photoswitching between the resting and active states induces changes in amide chemical shifts, residual dipolar couplings, and relaxation dynamics. All observables indicate a photoinduced structural change in the knot region and lower part of the helical spine. Supported by functional studies of plant phytochromes, the new mechanism explains how the conformational signal is directed through the protein to the signaling spine. The new pathway explains photo-sensing by phytochromes with atomic precision under biological conditions.

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