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Science 301 (5639): 1541-1544

Copyright © 2003 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Structural Basis of a Phototropin Light Switch

Shannon M. Harper, Lori C. Neil, Kevin H. Gardner*

Abstract: Phototropins are light-activated kinases important for plant responses to blue light. Light initiates signaling in these proteins by generating a covalent protein–flavin mononucleotide (FMN) adduct within sensory Per-ARNT-Sim (PAS) domains. We characterized the light-dependent changes of a phototropin PAS domain by solution nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and found that an {alpha} helix located outside the canonical domain plays a key role in this activation process. Although this helix associates with the PAS core in the dark, photoinduced changes in the domain structure disrupt this interaction. We propose that this mechanism couples light-dependent bond formation to kinase activation and identifies a signaling pathway conserved among PAS domains.

Departments of Biochemistry and Pharmacology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, TX 75390–9038, USA.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed at Department of Biochemistry, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, TX 75390–9038, USA. E-mail: kevin.gardner{at}

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