Phototropism is the process by which plants reorient growth of various organs, most notably stems, in response to lateral differences in light quantity and/or quality. The ubiquitous nature of the phototropic response in the plant kingdom implies that it provides some adaptive evolutionary advantage. Upon visual inspection it is tempting to surmise that phototropic curvatures result from a relatively simple growth response to a directional stimulus. However, detailed photophysiological, and more recently genetic and molecular, studies have demonstrated that phototropism is in fact regulated by complex interactions among several photosensory systems. At least two receptors, phototropin and a presently unidentified receptor, appear to mediate the primary photoreception of directional blue light cues in dark-grown plants. PhyB may also function as a primary receptor to detect lateral increases in far-red light in neighbor-avoidance responses of light-grown plants. Phytochromes (phyA and phyB at a minimum) also appear to function as secondary receptors to regulate adaptation processes that ultimately modulate the magnitude of curvature induced by primary photoperception. As a result of the interactions of these multiple photosensory systems plants are able to maximize the adaptive advantage of the phototropic response in ever changing light environments.
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Vol. 72 • No. 3