Cryptochromes (CRYs) are flavoproteins important for the molecular clocks of animals . The Drosophila cryptochrome (dCRY) is a circadian photoreceptor [2-5], whereas mouse cryptochromes (mCRY1 and mCRY2) are essential negative elements of circadian clock transcriptional feedback loops [6-9]. It has been proposed that reduction/oxidation (redox) reactions are important for dCRY light responsiveness  and mCRY1 transcriptional inhibition [11-13]. We therefore evaluated the role of redox in light-dependent activation of dCRY and in mCRY1 transcriptional inhibition in Drosophila Schneider 2 cells. Using site-directed mutagenesis, three of the four conserved flavin binding residues in dCRY were found to be essential for light responses, whereas three of the four corresponding residues in mCRY1 did not abolish transcriptional responses. Two tryptophan residues in dCRY are critical for its function and are likely involved in an intramolecular redox reaction. The corresponding tryptophan residues do not play a redox-mediated role in mCRY1 function. The data provide a multistep redox model for the light-dependent activities of dCRY and suggest that such a model does not apply to mCRY1 transcriptional responses.
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We would like to thank Sathyanarayanan Sriram and Kazuhiko Kume for help with the initial stages of this work and Kurtis Gray and Aditi Chavda for technical support. D.C.C. was supported by a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellowship in Biological Sciences. This work was supported by National Institutes of Health grant GM55820.