Identification of a novel cryptochrome differentiating domain required for feedback repression in circadian clock function


Circadian clocks in mammals are based on a negative feedback loop in which transcriptional repression by the cryptochromes, CRY1 and CRY2, lies at the heart of the mechanism. Despite similarities in sequence, domain structure, and biochemical activity, they play distinct roles in clock function. However, detailed biochemical studies have not been straightforward and Cry function has not been examined in real clock cells using kinetic measurements. In this study, we demonstrate, through cell-based genetic complementation and realtime molecular recording, that Cry1 alone is able to maintain cell-autonomous circadian rhythms, whereas Cry2 cannot. Using this novel functional assay, we identify a cryptochrome differentiating α-helical domain within the photolyase homology region (PHR) of CRY1, designated as CRY1- PHR(313-426), that is required for clock function and distinguishes CRY1 from CRY2. Contrary to speculation, the divergent carboxyl-terminal tail domain (CTD) is dispensable, but serves to modulate rhythm amplitude and period length. Finally, we identify the biochemical basis of their distinct function; CRY1 is a much more potent transcriptional repressor than CRY2, and the strength of repression by various forms of CRY proteins significantly correlates with rhythm amplitude. Taken together, our results demonstrate that CRY1-PHR(313-426), not the divergent CTD, is critical for clock function. These findings provide novel insights into the evolution of the diverse functions of the photolyase/cryptochrome family of flavoproteins and offer new opportunities for mechanistic studies of CRY function. © 2012 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.

Publication Title

Journal of Biological Chemistry