Characterization of cyanobacterial allophycocyanins absorbing far-red light

Nathan Soulier, Tatiana N. Laremore, Donald A. Bryant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Phycobiliproteins (PBPs) are pigment proteins that comprise phycobilisomes (PBS), major light-harvesting antenna complexes of cyanobacteria and red algae. PBS core substructures are made up of allophycocyanins (APs), a subfamily of PBPs. Five paralogous AP subunits are encoded by the Far-Red Light Photoacclimation (FaRLiP) gene cluster, which is transcriptionally activated in cells grown in far-red light (FRL; λ = 700 to 800 nm). FaRLiP gene expression enables some terrestrial cyanobacteria to remodel their PBS and photosystems and perform oxygenic photosynthesis in far-red light (FRL). Paralogous AP genes encoding a putative, FRL-absorbing AP (FRL-AP) are also found in an operon associated with improved low-light growth (LL; < 50 μmol photons m–2 s–1) in some thermophilic Synechococcus spp., a phenomenon termed low-light photoacclimation (LoLiP). In this study, apc genes from FaRLiP and LoLiP gene clusters were heterologously expressed individually and in combinations in Escherichia coli. The resulting novel FRL-APs were characterized and identified as major contributors to the FRL absorbance observed in whole cells after FaRLiP and potentially LoLiP. Post-translational modifications of native FRL-APs from FaRLiP cyanobacterium, Leptolyngbya sp. strain JSC-1, were analyzed by mass spectrometry. The PBP complexes made in two FaRLiP organisms were compared, revealing strain-specific diversity in the FaRLiP responses of cyanobacteria. Through analyses of native and recombinant proteins, we improved our understanding of how different cyanobacterial strains utilize specialized APs to acclimate to FRL and LL. We discuss some insights into structural changes that may allow these APs to absorb longer light wavelengths than their visible-light-absorbing paralogs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-207
Number of pages19
JournalPhotosynthesis research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology


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