The phytochrome family of photoreceptors has dual molecular functions: photosensory, involving light signal perception, and regulatory, involving signal transfer to downstream transduction components. To define residues necessary specifically for the regulatory activity of phytochrome A (phyA), we undertook a genetic screen to identify Arabidopsis mutants producing wild-type levels of biologically defective but photochemically active and dimeric phyA molecules. Of eight such mutants identified, six contain missense mutations (including three in the same residue, glycine 727) clustered within a restricted segment in the C-terminal domain of the polypeptide. Quantitative photobiological analysis revealed retention of varying degrees of partial activity among the different alleles--a result consistent with the extent of conservation at the position mutated. Together with additional data, these results indicate that the photoreceptor subdomain identified here is critical to the regulatory activity of both phyA and phyB
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