Six new bilin chromophores of the plant photoreceptor phytochrome have been synthesized, carrying at the photoisomerizing ring D an oxygen or a sulfur atom or a methylene group instead of the pyrrole nitrogen atom. These furanone-, thiophenone- or cyclopentenone-containing compounds bound covalently to the recombinant apophytochrome phyA of Avena sativa. The novel chromoproteins showed hypsochromically shifted absorption spectra with respect to native phytochrome and a strongly diminished photochemical activity, but a three- to four-fold higher fluorescence quantum yield. These results demonstrate that, on the one hand, also ring D-modified chromophores can be forced into a partially extended structure, required for incorporation into the apoprotein binding pocket and covalent binding. On the other hand, the modifications introduced into ring D of the chromophores strongly impede the formation of stable far red-absorbing forms of plant photoreceptor phytochrome (Pfr-form) of the chromoproteins, highlighting especially the role of the pyrrole nitrogen atom and hydrogen bonding for the precise interactions between that part of the chromophore and the protein for the Pfr-formation.