Cryptochromes are signaling proteins activated by photoexcitation of the flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) cofactor. Although extensive research has been performed, the mechanism for this allosteric process is still unknown. We constructed three computational models, corresponding to different redox states of the FAD cofactor in Drosophila cryptochrome (dCRY). Analyses of the dynamics trajectories reveal that the activation process occurs in the semiquinone state FAD-•, resulting from excited-state electron transfer. The Arg381-Asp410 salt bridge acts as an allosteric switch, regulated by the change in the redox state of FAD. In turn, Asp410 forms new hydrogen bonds, connecting allosteric networks of the amino-terminal and carboxyl-terminal domains initially separated in the resting state. The expansion to a global dynamic network leads to enhanced protein fluctuations, an increase in the radius of gyration, and the expulsion of the carboxyl-terminal tail. These structural features are in accord with mutations and spectroscopic experiments.
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