Photosynthesis Research

, Volume 140, Issue 1, pp 103–113 | Cite as

Orange and red carotenoid proteins are involved in the adaptation of the terrestrial cyanobacterium Nostoc flagelliforme to desiccation

  • Yi-Wen Yang
  • Yan-Chao Yin
  • Zheng-Ke Li
  • Da Huang
  • Jin-Long Shang
  • Min ChenEmail author
  • Bao-Sheng QiuEmail author
Original Article


The remarkable drought-resistance of the terrestrial cyanobacterium Nostoc flagelliforme (N. flagelliforme) has attracted attention for many years. In this study, we purified a group of red proteins that accumulate in dried field samples of N. flagelliforme. These red proteins contain canthaxanthin as the bound chromophore. Native-PAGE analysis revealed that the purified red proteins resolved into six visible red bands and were composed of four helical carotenoid proteins (HCPs), HCP1, HCP2, HCP3, and HCP6 (homologs to the N-terminal domain of the orange carotenoid protein (OCP)). Seven genes encode homologs of the OCP in the genome of N. flagelliforme: two full-length ocp genes (ocpx1 and ocpx2), four N-terminal domain hcp genes (hcp1, hcp2, hcp3, and hcp6), and one C-terminal domain ccp gene. The expression levels of hcp1, hcp2, and hcp6 were highly dependent on the water status of field N. flagelliforme samples, being downregulated during rehydration and upregulated during subsequent dehydration. Transcripts of ocpx2 were dominant in the dried field samples, which we confirmed by detecting the presence of OCPx2-derived peptides in the purified red proteins. The results shed light on the relationship between carotenoid-binding proteins and the desiccation resistance of terrestrial cyanobacteria, and the physiological functions of carotenoid-binding protein complexes in relation to desiccation are discussed.


Nostoc flagelliforme Orange carotenoid protein Canthaxanthin Desiccation Helical carotenoid protein Red carotenoid protein 











Mycosporine-like amino acids


Reactive oxygen species


Orange carotenoid protein


Inactive orange form orange carotenoid protein


Active red form orange carotenoid protein






Water stress protein



We thank Prof. Cui-Hong Wan and Dr. Bing Wang (Central China Normal University) for assisting in the LC–MS/MS data collection and analysis. We also thank Dr. Guo-Zheng Dai, Dr. Hai-Bo Jiang, Dr. Xiang Gao, and Dr. Zhong-chun Zhang (Central China Normal University) for their valuable advice. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31670332).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research involving with human and animal participants

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

11120_2019_629_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.6 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 1587 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Life Sciences, and Hubei Key Laboratory of Genetic Regulation and Integrative BiologyCentral China Normal UniversityWuhanPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis & School of Life and Environmental SciencesUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia

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