The adaptation of plant growth and development to changes in the light environment is dependent upon photoperception by information transducing photoreceptors. The red/far-red light-absorbing phytochromes are perhaps the best characterized of these regulatory photoreceptors. Higher plants possess multiple, discrete phytochromes, the apoprotein components of which are the products of a small, divergent gene family. Different phytochromes have different biochemical and physiological properties, and are differentially expressed in the growing plant. This has led to the proposal that different phytochromes have different physiological roles. Mutations that disrupt the normal perception of light signals have proved to be a valuable resource in assigning physiological roles to different phytochromes as well as in identifying residues/domains critical for phytochrome function and in attempting to elucidate the signal transduction pathway(s) downstream of phytochromes. This article reviews some recent progress in these areas from the study of conventional and transgenic photomorphogenic mutants.
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