The absolute light sensitivity of Phycomyces sporangiophores was determined by analyzing the intensity dependence of the phototropic bending rate and of the light growth and dark growth responses to step changes of the intensity. We found that the different methods give approximately the same results for the wild-type strain, as well as for several behavioral mutants with defects in the genes madA, madB, and madC. A crucial factor in the determination of thresholds is the light intensity at which the strains grow during the 4 d after inoculation and prior to the experiment. When the wild-type strain grows in the dark, its threshold for the bending rate is 10(-9) W X m-2, compared with 2 X 10(-7) W X m-2 when it is grown under continuous illumination. Further, the maximal bending rate is twice as high in dark-grown strains. This phenomenon is further complicated by the fact that the diameter and growth rate of the sporangiophores also depend on the illumination conditions prior to the experiment: light-grown sporangiophores have an increased diameter and an increased growth rate compared with dark-grown ones. Some of the behavioral mutants, however, are indifferent to this form of light control. Another factor that is controlled by the growth conditions is adaptation: the kinetics of dark adaptation are slower in light-grown sporangiophores than in dark-grown ones. We found empirically a positive correlation between the slower dark adaptation constant and the threshold of the bending rate, which shows that the two underlying phenomena are functionally related.

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