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Comparison of the expression patterns in phyA and phyB null mutants with those of the wild type in FRc and Rc, respectively, have identified the photoresponsive genes regulated by these phy family members. The data verify the exclusive role of phyA in FRc perception, but indicate that other family members share the function of mediating Rc signals with phyB, and suggest organ-specific differences in signaling activity among phy family members (Tepperman et al 2001, 2004). Analysis of the temporal patterns of light-induced expression has shown that 10% of phy-regulated genes exhibit altered expression within 1 hour of the signal (“early-response” genes) (Tepperman et al 2001, 2004).

In a chapter on the History of Phytochrome (see also Sage 1992), Furuya concisely captures the progression of the field in sequential “eras”: GENESIS (The Beltsville Era: 1920–1963), describing the physiological experiments that led to the discovery of phytochrome, its ultimate physical detection by spectroscopic methods, and its initial purification and preliminary biochemical characterization; THE ERA OF DISAPPOINTMENT (1963–1970), describing the lack of quantitative correlation observed between spectrophotometrically measurable phytochrome abundance and photochemical state, and the various photoreversible responses of plants to red and far-red light; THE SEVENTIES: THE ERA OF GROPING, describing further biochemical characterization of the phytochrome molecule, definition of the chemical structure of the chromophore, the introduction of immunochemical approaches and microbeam irradiation technology, with a strong focus on the question of subcellular localization as a means of assessing the “membrane hypothesis” of the primary action of phytochrome; and THE EIGHTIES: THE ERA OF MOLECULAR BIOLOGY, referring to the beginnings of the application of molecular biological approaches in the field.

The impact of molecular biology was by then firmly established and the first PHY genes and cDNAs had been cloned and sequenced, revealing the amino acid sequence of the photoreceptor. H. Quail possible existence of more than one class of phy was emerging, and the first report of the detection of Ser/Thr-protein kinase activity in purified phy preparations was presented. The use of molecular biological tools to investigate light-induced regulation of the expression of specific cloned genes was increasing.

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