Sporulation of the true slime mold Physarum polycephalum (Myxomycetales) can be triggered by the far-red/red reversible Physarum phytochrome. Physarum plasmodia were analyzed with a purpose-built dual-wavelength photometer that is designed for phytochrome measurements. A photoreversible absorbance change at 670 nm was monitored after actinic red (R) and far-red (FR) irradiation of starved plasmodia, confirming the occurrence of a phytochrome-like photoreceptor in Physarum spectroscopically. These signals were not found in growing plasmodia, suggesting the Physarum phytochrome to be synthesized during starvation, which makes the cells competent for the photoinduction of sporulation. The photoconversion rates by R and FR light were similar in the phytochromes of Physarum and etiolated oat shoots. In dark-grown Physarum plasmodia that had not been preexposed to any light only R induced a detectable absorbance change while FR did not. This indicates that most (at least 90%) of the photoreversible pigment occurs in the red-absorbing form. Since the effectiveness of FR in triggering sporulation was enhanced by preirradiation with R, it is concluded that at least part of the Pr can be photoconverted to the active Pfr photoreceptor species. We propose a kinetic mechanism for the photocontrol of sporulation by photoconversion of Pfr, which may also hold for the high-irradiance response to FR in Arabidopsis and Cuscuta.
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Vol. 73 • No. 6