For plants, light is a signal that carries information about the environment, and a source of energy for photosynthesis. PHYTOCAL focuses on the interaction between phytochrome signalling and photosynthesis, and seeks to understand fundamental processes that make carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) resources available for plant growth. These unexplored connections underlie biomass production and plasticity, which contribute significantly to yield variability in the field.
Crop biomass and yield are tightly linked to how the light signaling network translates information about the environment into allocation of resources, including photosynthates. Once activated, the … phytochrome (phy) class of photoreceptors signal and re-deploy carbon resources to alter growth, plant architecture, and reproductive timing. Most of the previous characterization of the light-modulated growth program has been performed in the reference plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Here, we use Brassica rapa as a crop model to test for conservation of the phytochrome-carbon network. In response to elevated levels of CO2, B. rapa seedlings showed increases in hypocotyl length, shoot and root fresh weight, and the number of lateral roots. All of these responses were dependent on nitrogen and polar auxin transport. In addition, we identified putative B. rapa orthologs of PhyB and isolated two nonsense alleles. BrphyB mutants had significantly decreased or absent CO2-stimulated growth responses. Mutant seedlings also showed misregulation of auxin-dependent genes and genes involved in chloroplast development. Adult mutant plants had reduced chlorophyll levels, photosynthetic rate, stomatal index, and seed yield. These findings support a recently proposed holistic role for phytochromes in regulating resource allocation, biomass production, and metabolic state in the developing plant.