Use of Quartz Sand Columns to Study Far-Red Light Photoacclimation (FaRLiP) in Cyanobacteria

Ting Shuo Nien, Donald A. Bryant, Ming Yang Ho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Some cyanobacteria can perform far-red light photoacclimation (FaRLiP), which allows them to use far-red light (FRL) for oxygenic photosynthesis. Most of the cyanobacteria able to use FRL were discovered in low visible-light (VL; l = 400–700 nm) environments that are also enriched in FRL (l = 700–800 nm). However, these cyanobacteria grow faster in VL than in FRL in laboratory conditions, indicating that FRL is not their preferred light source when VL is available. Therefore, it is interesting to understand why such strains were primarily found in FRL-enriched but not VL-enriched environments. To this aim, we established a terrestrial model system with quartz sand to study the distribution and photoacclimation of cyanobacterial strains. A FaRLiP-performing cyanobacterium, Leptolyngbya sp. JSC-1, and a VL-utilizing model cyanobacterium, Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803, were compared in this study. We found that, although Leptolyngbya sp. JSC-1 can grow well in both VL and FRL, Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 grows much faster than Leptolyngbya sp. JSC-1 in VL. In addition, the growth was higher in liquid cocultures than in monocultures of Leptolyngbya sp. JSC-1 or Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. In an artificial terrestrial model system, Leptolyngbya sp. JSC-1 has an advantage when growing in coculture at greater depths by performing FaRLiP. Therefore, strong competition for VL and slower growth rate are possible reasons why FRL-utilizing cyanobacteria are found in environments with low VL intensities. This model system provides a valuable tool for future studies of cyanobacterial ecological niches and interactions in a terrestrial environment. IMPORTANCE This study uses sand columns to establish a terrestrial model system for the investigation of the distribution and acclimation of cyanobacteria to far-red light. Previous studies of this group of cyanobacteria required direct in situ samplings. The variability of conditions and abundances of the cyanobacteria in natural settings impeded detailed analyses and comparisons. Therefore, we established this model system under controlled conditions in the laboratory. In this system, the distribution and acclimation of two cyanobacteria were similar to the situation observed in natural environments, which validates that it can be used to study fundamental questions. Using this approach, we made the unanticipated observation that two cyanobacteria grow faster in coculture than in axenic cultures. This laboratory-based model system can provide a valuable new tool for comparing cyanobacterial strains (e.g., mutants and wild type), exploring interactions between cyanobacterial strains and interactions with other bacteria, and characterizing ecological niches of cyanobacteria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Ecology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


Dive into the research topics of 'Use of Quartz Sand Columns to Study Far-Red Light Photoacclimation (FaRLiP) in Cyanobacteria'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this