Phycobilisome-deficient strains of Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 have reduced size and require carbon-limiting conditions to exhibit enhanced productivity

David J. Lea-Smith, Paolo Bombelli, John S. Dennis, Stuart A. Scott, Alison G. Smith, Christopher J. Howe

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60 Citations (Scopus)


Reducing excessive light harvesting in photosynthetic organisms may increase biomass yields by limiting photoinhibition and increasing light penetration in dense cultures. The cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 harvests light via the phycobilisome, which consists of an allophycocyanin core and six radiating rods, each with three phycocyanin (PC) discs. Via targeted gene disruption and alterations to the promoter region, three mutants with two (pcpcT→C) and one (ƊCpcC1C2:pcpcT→C) PC discs per rod or lacking PC (olive) were generated. Photoinhibition and chlorophyll levels decreased upon phycobilisome reduction, although greater penetration of white light was observed only in the PC-deficient mutant. In all strains cultured at high cell densities, most light was absorbed by the first 2 cm of the culture. Photosynthesis and respiration rates were also reduced in the ƊCpcC1C2:pcpcT→C and olive mutants. Cell size was smaller in the pcpcT→C and olive strains. Growth and biomass accumulation were similar between the wild-type and pcpcT→C under a variety of conditions. Growth and biomass accumulation of the olive mutant were poorer in carbon-saturated cultures but improved in carbon-limited cultures at higher light intensities, as they did in the ƊCpcC1C2:pcpcT→C mutant. This study shows that one PC disc per rod is sufficient for maximal light harvesting and biomass accumulation, except under conditions of high light and carbon limitation, and two or more are sufficient for maximal oxygen evolution. To our knowledge, this study is the first to measure light penetration in bulk cultures of cyanobacteria and offers important insights into photobioreactor design.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)705-714
Number of pages10
JournalPlant Physiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2014

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