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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Biliverdin binds covalently to agrobacterium phytochrome Agp1 via its ring A vinyl side chain.

The widely distributed phytochrome photoreceptors carry a bilin chromophore, which is covalently attached to the protein during a lyase reaction. In plant phytochromes, the natural chromophore is coupled by a thioether bond between its ring A ethylidene side chain and a conserved cysteine residue within the so-called GAF domain of the protein. Many bacterial phytochromes carry biliverdin as natural chromophore, which is coupled in a different manner to the protein. In phytochrome Agp1 of Agrobacterium tumefaciens, biliverdin is covalently attached to a cysteine residue close to the N terminus (position 20). By testing different natural and synthetic biliverdin derivatives, it was found that the ring A vinyl side chain is used for chromophore attachment. Only those bilins that have ring A vinyl side chain were covalently attached, whereas bilins with an ethylidene or ethyl side chain were bound in a noncovalent manner. Phycocyanobilin, which belongs to the latter group, was however covalently attached to a mutant in which a cysteine was introduced into the GAF domain of Agp1 (position 249). It is proposed that the regions around positions 20 and 249 are in close contact and contribute both to the chromophore pocket. In competition experiments it was found that phycocyanobilin and biliverdin bind with similar strength to the wild type protein. However, in the V249C mutant, phycocyanobilin bound much more strongly than biliverdin. This finding could explain why during phytochrome evolution in cyanobacteria, the chromophore-binding site swapped from the N terminus into the GAF domain.[1]


  1. Biliverdin binds covalently to agrobacterium phytochrome Agp1 via its ring A vinyl side chain. Lamparter, T., Michael, N., Caspani, O., Miyata, T., Shirai, K., Inomata, K. J. Biol. Chem. (2003) [Pubmed]
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