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Structure of full-length Drosophila cryptochrome

A Corrigendum to this article was published on 20 March 2013


The cryptochrome/photolyase (CRY/PL) family of photoreceptors mediates adaptive responses to ultraviolet and blue light exposure in all kingdoms of life1,2,3,4,5. Whereas PLs function predominantly in DNA repair of cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPDs) and 6-4 photolesions caused by ultraviolet radiation, CRYs transduce signals important for growth, development, magnetosensitivity and circadian clocks1,2,3,4,5. Despite these diverse functions, PLs/CRYs preserve a common structural fold, a dependence on flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) and an internal photoactivation mechanism3,6. However, members of the CRY/PL family differ in the substrates recognized (protein or DNA), photochemical reactions catalysed and involvement of an antenna cofactor. It is largely unknown how the animal CRYs that regulate circadian rhythms act on their substrates. CRYs contain a variable carboxy-terminal tail that appends the conserved PL homology domain (PHD) and is important for function7,8,9,10,11,12. Here, we report a 2.3-Å resolution crystal structure of Drosophila CRY with an intact C terminus. The C-terminal helix docks in the analogous groove that binds DNA substrates in PLs. Conserved Trp 536 juts into the CRY catalytic centre to mimic PL recognition of DNA photolesions. The FAD anionic semiquinone found in the crystals assumes a conformation to facilitate restructuring of the tail helix. These results help reconcile the diverse functions of the CRY/PL family by demonstrating how conserved protein architecture and photochemistry can be elaborated into a range of light-driven functions.

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Figure 1: dCRY resembles 6-4 PL with the C-terminal tail replacing the DNA substrate.
Figure 2: Structural motifs that define Type 1 CRYs.
Figure 3: Cofactor binding regions of dCRY.
Figure 4: Redox active groups and conformations in dCRY.

Accession codes

Primary accessions

Protein Data Bank

Data deposits

Atomic coordinates for the reported crystal structures have been deposited with the Protein Data Bank under accession code 3TVS.


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This study was supported by NIH Grant GM079679 to B.R.C. and GM054339 to M.W.Y. We thank the NE-CAT at the Advanced Photon Source of Argonne Laboratories for access to data collection facilities. We are indebted to C. Kemp for insect cell expression of dCRY and C. Manahan, X. Xu and W. Horne for their help with the ITC experiments.

Author information




B.R.C., B.D.Z., A.T.V., D.T. and M.W.Y. designed the project. J.W. cloned, expressed and purified dCRY, B.D.Z. and A.T.V. purified and crystallized dCRY and collected diffraction data. B.D.Z. and B.R.C. determined the structure. D.T. and M.W.Y. performed CRY stability studies. A.T.V. performed ITC experiments. B.D.Z. and B.R.C. wrote the manuscript and all authors provided editorial input.

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Correspondence to Brian R. Crane.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

This file contains Supplementary Text and Data, Supplementary Figures 1-12 with legends, Supplementary Tables 1-2, Supplementary Materials and Methods and additional references (see contents for details). (PDF 1718 kb)

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Zoltowski, B., Vaidya, A., Top, D. et al. Structure of full-length Drosophila cryptochrome. Nature 480, 396–399 (2011).

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