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Dynamic responses of photosystem II and phycobilisomes to changing light in the cyanobacterium Synechococcus sp. PCC 7942


We have examined the molecular and photosynthetic responses of a planktonic cyanobacterium to shifts in light intensity over periods up to one generation (7 h). Synechococcus sp. PCC 7942 possesses two functionally distinct forms of the D1 protein, D1∶1 and D1∶2. Photosystem II (PSII) centers containing D1∶1 are less efficient and more susceptible to photoinhibition than are centers containing D 1∶2. Under 50 μmol photons· m−2·s−1, PSII centers contain D1∶1, but upon shifts to higher light (200 to 1000 μmol photons·m−2·s−1), D1∶1 is rapidly replaced by D 1∶2, with the rate of interchange dependent on the magnitude of the light shift. This interchange is readily reversed when cells are returned to 50 μmol photons·m−2·s−1. If, however, incubation under 200 μmol photons·m−2·s−1 is extended, D1∶1 content recovers and by 3 h after the light shift D1∶1 once again predominates. Oxygen evolution and chlorophyll (Chl) fluorescence measurements spanning the light shift and D1 interchanges showed an initial inhibition of photosynthesis at 200 μmol photons·m−2·s−1, which correlates with a proportional loss of total D1 protein and a cessation of growth. This was followed by recovery in photosynthesis and growth as the maximum level of D 1∶2 is reached after 2 h at 200 μmol photons·m−2·s−1. Thereafter, photosynthesis steadily declines with the loss of D1∶2 and the return of the less-efficient D1∶1. During the D1∶1/D1∶2 interchanges, no significant change occurs in the level of phycocyanin (PC) and Chl a, nor of the phycobilisome rod linkers. Nevertheless, the initial PC/Chl a ratio strongly influences the magnitude of photo inhibition and recovery during the light shifts. In Synechococcus sp. PCC 7942, the PC/Chl a ratio responds only slowly to light intensity or quality, while the rapid but transient interchange between D1∶1 and D 1∶2 modulates PSII activity to limit damage upon exposure to excess light.

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F′M :

maximum Chl fluorescence in light-adapted state

F′v :

variable Chl fluorescence in light-adapted state PC-phycocyanin


photosynthetic photon flux density

qp :

photochemical quenching


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Author information

Correspondence to Adrian K. Clarke.

Additional information

The authors would like to thank Professor Eva-Mari Aro (Department of Biology, University of Turku, Finland) for her gift of the total D1 antibody, and Dr Vaughan M. Hurry (RSBS, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia) for his critical reading of the manuscript. This research was supported by the Swedish Natural Science Research Council.

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Clarke, A.K., Campbell, D., Gustafsson, P. et al. Dynamic responses of photosystem II and phycobilisomes to changing light in the cyanobacterium Synechococcus sp. PCC 7942. Planta 197, 553–562 (1995).

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Key words

  • Acclimation
  • D1 turnover
  • Photosystem II
  • Phycobilisome
  • Synechococcus sp. PCC 7942
  • Variable light