Photosynthesis Research

, Volume 106, Issue 1–2, pp 19–31 | Cite as

Auxiliary electron transport pathways in chloroplasts of microalgae

  • Gilles Peltier
  • Dimitri Tolleter
  • Emmanuelle Billon
  • Laurent Cournac


Microalgae are photosynthetic organisms which cover an extraordinary phylogenic diversity and have colonized extremely diverse habitats. Adaptation to contrasted environments in terms of light and nutrient’s availabilities has been possible through a high flexibility of the photosynthetic machinery. Indeed, optimal functioning of photosynthesis in changing environments requires a fine tuning between the conversion of light energy by photosystems and its use by metabolic reaction, a particularly important parameter being the balance between phosphorylating (ATP) and reducing (NADPH) power supplies. In addition to the main route of electrons operating during oxygenic photosynthesis, called linear electron flow or Z scheme, auxiliary routes of electron transfer in interaction with the main pathway have been described. These reactions which include non-photochemical reduction of intersystem electron carriers, cyclic electron flow around PSI, oxidation by molecular O2 of the PQ pool or of the PSI electron acceptors, participate in the flexibility of photosynthesis by avoiding over-reduction of electron carriers and modulating the NADPH/ATP ratio depending on the metabolic demand. Forward or reverse genetic approaches performed in model organisms such as Arabidopsis thaliana for higher plants, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii for green algae and Synechocystis for cyanobacteria allowed identifying molecular components involved in these auxiliary electron transport pathways, including Ndh-1, Ndh-2, PGR5, PGRL1, PTOX and flavodiiron proteins. In this article, we discuss the diversity of auxiliary routes of electron transport in microalgae, with particular focus in the presence of these components in the microalgal genomes recently sequenced. We discuss how these auxiliary mechanisms of electron transport may have contributed to the adaptation of microalgal photosynthesis to diverse and changing environments.


ATP supply Chlororespiration Cyclic electron flow Flavodiiron PGR5 PGRL1 Photosynthesis Plastid terminal oxidase Redox poise 







Ferredoxin NADPH oxidoreductase, Ndh-1, type I NDH complex


Type II NAD(P)H dehydrogenase




Plastid terminal oxidase





This study was supported by the European FP7-Energy-RTD program (SOLAR-H2 Project No. 212508), and by the French “Agence Nationale pour la Recherche” ALGOMICS project (ANR-08-BIO-002).

Supplementary material

11120_2010_9575_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (357 kb)
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gilles Peltier
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Dimitri Tolleter
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Emmanuelle Billon
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Laurent Cournac
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.CEA, Direction des Sciences du Vivant, Institut de Biologie Environnementale et de Biotechnologie, Laboratoire de Bioénergétique et Biotechnologie des Bactéries et MicroalguesCEA CadaracheSaint-Paul-lez-DuranceFrance
  2. 2.CNRS, UMR Biologie Végétale et Microbiologie EnvironnementaleSaint-Paul-lez-DuranceFrance
  3. 3.Laboratoire de Bioénergétique et Biotechnologie des Bactéries et MicroalguesAix Marseille UniversitéSaint-Paul-lez-DuranceFrance

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