Out of the Dark and Into the Light: A New View of Phytochrome Photobodies

Sarah A. Pardi, Dmitri A. Nusinow

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Light is a critical environmental stimulus for plants, serving as an energy source via photosynthesis and a signal for developmental programming. Plants perceive light through various light-responsive proteins, termed photoreceptors. Phytochromes are red-light photoreceptors that are highly conserved across kingdoms. In the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, phytochrome B serves as a light and thermal sensor, mediating physiological processes such as seedling germination and establishment, hypocotyl growth, chlorophyll biogenesis, and flowering. In response to red light, phytochromes convert to a biologically active form, translocating from the cytoplasm into the nucleus and further compartmentalizes into subnuclear compartments termed photobodies. PhyB photobodies regulate phytochrome-mediated signaling and physiological outputs. However, photobody function, composition, and biogenesis remain undefined since their discovery. Based on photobody cellular dynamics and the properties of internal components, photobodies have been suggested to undergo liquid-liquid phase separation, a process by which some membraneless compartments form. Here, we explore photobodies as environmental sensors, examine the role of their protein constituents, and outline the biophysical perspective that photobodies may be undergoing liquid-liquid phase separation. Understanding the molecular, cellular, and biophysical processes that shape how plants perceive light will help in engineering improved sunlight capture and fitness of important crops.

Original languageEnglish
Article number732947
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
StatePublished - Aug 31 2021


  • biomolecular condensates
  • intrinsically disordered protein
  • liquid–liquid phase separation
  • photobodies
  • phytochrome


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