Photolyases and cryptochromes are evolutionarily related flavoproteins, which however perform distinct physiological functions. Photolyases (PHR) are evolutionarily ancient enzymes. They are activated by light and repair DNA damage caused by UV radiation. Although cryptochromes share structural similarity with DNA photolyases, they lack DNA repair activity. Cryptochrome (CRY) is one of the key elements of the circadian system in animals. In plants, CRY acts as a blue light receptor to entrain circadian rhythms, and mediates a variety of light responses, such as the regulation of flowering and seedling growth.
Despite the striking similarity between cryptochromes and photolyases, no photolyase activity of any kind has been observed in cryptochromes. Both uses UV radiation as a source of energy and FAD cofactor as antenna.
Cryptochromes also seem to be related also with magneto-reception in birds and other animals.