Widespread phytochrome photoreceptors use photoisomerization of linear tetrapyrrole (bilin) chromophores to measure the ratio of red to far-red light. Cyanobacteria also contain distantly related cyanobacteriochrome (CBCR) proteins that share the bilin-binding GAF domain of phytochromes but sense other colors of light. CBCR photocycles are extremely diverse, ranging from the near-UV to the near-IR. Photoisomerization of the bilin triggers photoconversion of the CBCR input, thereby modulating the biochemical signaling state of output domains such as histidine kinase bidomains that can interface with cellular signal transduction pathways. CBCRs thus can regulate several aspects of cyanobacterial photobiology, including phototaxis, metabolism of cyclic nucleotide second messengers, and optimization of the cyanobacterial light-harvesting apparatus. This review examines spectral tuning, photoconversion, and photobiology of CBCRs and recent developments in understanding their evolution and in applying them in synthetic biology.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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