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Cryptochromes and photolyases belong to the same family of flavoproteins but, despite being structurally conserved, display distinct functions. Photolyases use visible light to repair ultraviolet-induced DNA damage. Cryptochromes, however, function as blue-light receptors, circadian photoreceptors, or repressors of the CLOCK/BMAL1 heterodimer, the transcription activator controlling the molecular circadian clock. Here, we present evidence that the functional divergence between cryptochromes and photolyases is not so univocal. Chrysodeixis chalcites nucleopolyhedrovirus possesses 2 photolyase-like genes: phr1 and phr2. We show that PHR1 and PHR2 are able to bind the CLOCK protein. Only for PHR2, however, the physical interaction with CLOCK represses CLOCK/BMAL1-driven transcription. This result shows that binding of photolyase per se is not sufficient to inhibit the CLOCK/BMAL1 heterodimer. PHR2, furthermore, affects the oscillation of immortalized mouse embryonic fibroblasts, suggesting that PHR2 can regulate the molecular circadian clock. These findings are relevant for further understanding the evolution of cryptochromes and photolyases as well as behavioral changes induced in insects by baculoviruses.


Magdalena A Biernat, André P M Eker, Monique M van Oers, Just M Vlak, Gijsbertus T J van der Horst, Inês Chaves. A baculovirus photolyase with DNA repair activity and circadian clock regulatory function. Journal of biological rhythms. 2012 Feb;27(1):3-11

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PMID: 22306969

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