Bacteriophytochromes - from informative model systems of phytochrome function to powerful tools in cell biology.
Abstract: Bacteriophytochromes are a subfamily of the diverse light responsive phytochrome photoreceptors. Considering their preferential interaction with biliverdin IXα as endogenous cofactor, they have recently been used for creating optogenetic tools and engineering fluorescent probes. Ideal absorption characteristics for the activation of bacteriophytochrome-based systems in the therapeutic near-infrared window as well the availability of biliverdin in mammalian tissues have resulted in tremendous progress in re-engineering bacteriophytochromes for diverse applications. At the same time, both the structural analysis and the functional characterization of diverse naturally occurring bacteriophytochrome systems have unraveled remarkable differences in signaling mechanisms and have so far only touched the surface of the evolutionary diversity within the family of bacteriophytochromes. This review highlights recent findings and future challenges.