Phytochromes function as thermosensors in Arabidopsis

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Science  18 Nov 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6314, pp. 886-889
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf6005

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Combining heat and light responses

Plants integrate a variety of environmental signals to regulate growth patterns. Legris et al. and Jung et al. analyzed how the quality of light is interpreted through ambient temperature to regulate transcription and growth (see the Perspective by Halliday and Davis). The phytochromes responsible for reading the ratio of red to far-red light were also responsive to the small shifts in temperature that occur when dusk falls or when shade from neighboring plants cools the soil.

Science, this issue p. 897, p. 886; see also p. 832


Plants are responsive to temperature, and some species can distinguish differences of 1°C. In Arabidopsis, warmer temperature accelerates flowering and increases elongation growth (thermomorphogenesis). However, the mechanisms of temperature perception are largely unknown. We describe a major thermosensory role for the phytochromes (red light receptors) during the night. Phytochrome null plants display a constitutive warm-temperature response, and consistent with this, we show in this background that the warm-temperature transcriptome becomes derepressed at low temperatures. We found that phytochrome B (phyB) directly associates with the promoters of key target genes in a temperature-dependent manner. The rate of phyB inactivation is proportional to temperature in the dark, enabling phytochromes to function as thermal timers that integrate temperature information over the course of the night.

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