About this Research Topic
Cryptochromes are a class of evolutionarily conserved flavoproteins first discovered in plants. They were found to function as blue-light receptors that mediate multiple aspects of plant growth and development and hence have wide-ranging ecological and agricultural significance. Cryptochromes were subsequently identified in organisms throughout all biological Kingdoms, ranging from prokaryotes, such as archaebacteria and blue-green algae, to eukaryotes including algae, fungi, invertebrate and vertebrate animal species. In mammals, they function as central components of the circadian clock and have been linked to medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, inflammation, and the onset of certain cancers.
From a mechanistic perspective, cryptochromes are closely evolutionarily related to photolyases, a class of light-activated DNA repair flavoenzymes which undergo redox reactions. Therefore, all cryptochromes share important structural and biochemical characteristics. Intriguingly, recent developments have suggested that cryptochromes may respond to magnetic fields as well as to light, and that this property has likewise been conserved among cryptochromes from different organisms.
As a consequence, cryptochrome photoreceptors are being studied over a vast array of scientific disciplines ranging from plant, animal, and microbial biology to ecology, evolutionary biology, and medicine. Furthermore, numerous studies in the fields of chemistry, crystallography, biochemistry, biophysics, mathematics, and theoretical physics are probing the underlying mechanisms of how cryptochromes function. Much of this work is however only peripherally accessible to cryptochrome researchers outside of their immediate fields of specialization.
The goal of this Research Topic is therefore to provide reviews of foundational and cutting-edge findings that are accessible to a broad audience. It endeavors to consolidate and stimulate fundamental research as well as provide the groundwork for transformational innovation in biotechnical and therapeutic applications.
Finally, cryptochromes are of increasing interest to the newly emerging field of Quantum Biology. Thus ‘Decrypting’ the cryptochromes might provide an important missing link for understanding how these forces impact on biological systems.
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