Looking through the eyes of fungi: Molecular genetics of photoreception

Alfredo Herrera-Estrella, Benjamin Horwitz

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review


Filamentous fungi respond to a variety of environmental signals. One of them is light, providing critical information about orientation, or impending stress. Cells of filamentous fungi appear to sense blue light through a unique transcription factor that has a flavin chromophore and activates its targets in a light-dependent manner, the white collar (WC) complex. Fungal photophysiology, though, predicted a greater complexity of responses to the whole visible spectrum. The rapidly growing fungal genome database provides candidates to explain how fungi see not only blue, but also near-UV, green and red light. At the same time, there are surprises in the genomes, including photoreceptors for which there are no obvious photoresponses. Linking these genes and their functions will help understand how a list of only a few biological chromophores accounts for such a diversity of responses. At the same time, deeper mechanistic understanding of how the WC complex functions will lead to fundamental insights at the point where the environment impinges, in this case in the form of photons, on the transcriptional machinery of the cell.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-15
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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