Cryptochromes are flavoproteins that exhibit high sequence and structural similarity to the light-dependent DNA-repair enzyme, photolyase. Cryptochromes have lost the ability to repair DNA; instead, they use the energy from near-UV/blue light to regulate a variety of growth and adaptive processes in organisms ranging from bacteria to humans. The photocycle of cryptochrome is not yet known, although it is hypothesized that it may share some similarity to that of photolyase, which utilizes light-driven electron transfer from the catalytic flavin chromophore. In this review, we present genetic evidence for the photoreceptive role of cryptochromes and discuss recent biochemical studies that have furthered our understanding of the cryptochrome photocycle. In particular, the role of the unique C-terminal domain in cryptochrome phototransduction is discussed.
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Vol. 81 • No. 6