Cyanobacteriochromes are phytochrome homologues in cyanobacteria that act as sensory photoreceptors. We compare two cyanobacteriochromes, RGS (coded by slr1393) from Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 and AphC (coded by all2699) from Nostoc sp. PCC 7120. Both contain three GAF (cGMP phosphodiesterase, adenylyl cyclase and FhlA protein) domains (GAF1, GAF2 and GAF3). The respective full-length, truncated and cysteine point-mutated genes were expressed in Escherichia coli together with genes for chromophore biosynthesis. The resulting chromoproteins were analyzed by UV-visible absorption, fluorescence and circular dichroism spectroscopy as well as by mass spectrometry. RGS shows a red–green photochromism (λmax = 650 and 535 nm) that is assigned to the reversible 15Z/E isomerization of a single phycocyanobilin-chromophore (PCB) binding to Cys528 of GAF3. Of the three GAF domains, only GAF3 binds a chromophore and the binding is autocatalytic. RGS autophosphorylates in vitro; this reaction is photoregulated: the 535 nm state containing E-PCB was more active than the 650 nm state containing Z-PCB. AphC from Nostoc could be chromophorylated at two GAF domains, namely GAF1 and GAF3. PCB-GAF1 is photochromic, with the proposed 15E state (λmax = 685 nm) reverting slowly thermally to the thermostable 15Z state (λmax = 635 nm). PCB-GAF3 showed a novel red–orange photochromism; the unstable state (putative 15E, λmax = 595 nm) reverts very rapidly (τ∼ 20 s) back to the thermostable Z state (λmax = 645 nm). The photochemistry of doubly chromophorylated AphC is accordingly complex, as is the autophosphorylation: E-GAF1/E-GAF3 shows the highest rate of autophosphorylation activity, while E-GAF1/Z-GAF3 has intermediate activity, and Z-GAF1/Z-GAF3 is the least active state.
Structured digital abstract