A novel high-throughput in vivo molecular screen for shade avoidance mutants identifies a novel phyA mutation.
The shade avoidance syndrome (SAS) allows plants to anticipate and avoid shading by neighbouring plants by initiating an elongation growth response. The phytochrome photoreceptors are able to detect a reduction in the red:far red ratio in incident light, the result of selective absorption of red and blue wavelengths by proximal vegetation. A shade-responsive luciferase reporter line (PHYB::LUC) was used to carry out a high-throughput screen to identify novel SAS mutants. The dracula 1 (dra1) mutant, that showed no avoidance of shade for the PHYB::LUC response, was the result of a mutation in the PHYA gene. Like previously characterized phyA mutants, dra1 showed a long hypocotyl in far red light and an enhanced hypocotyl elongation response to shade. However, dra1 additionally showed a long hypocotyl in red light. Since phyB levels are relatively unaffected in dra1, this gain-of-function red light phenotype strongly suggests a disruption of phyB signalling. The dra1 mutation, G773E within the phyA PAS2 domain, occurs at a residue absolutely conserved among phyA sequences. The equivalent residue in phyB is absolutely conserved as a threonine. PAS domains are structurally conserved domains involved in molecular interaction. Structural modelling of the dra1 mutation within the phyA PAS2 domain shows some similarity with the structure of the phyB PAS2 domain, suggesting that the interference with phyB signalling may be the result of non-functional mimicry. Hence, it was hypothesized that this PAS2 residue forms a key distinction between the phyA and phyB phytochrome species.
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