We characterized the photosynthetic properties of the pmgA mutant of Synechocystis PCC 6803, which cannot change its photosystem stoichiometry under a high-light condition (200 μmol m-2 s-1), in order to clarify the physiological significance of the regulation of photosystem stoichiometry. We found that (1) PSII activity was inhibited more in wild-type cells on the first day under the high-light conditions than in mutant cells. (2) The growth of the mutants following the initial imposition of high light was faster than that of wild-type cells. (3) However, growth was severely inhibited in the mutants after the third day of exposure to high light. (4) The growth inhibition in the mutants under the extended high-light conditions was reversed by the addition of sublethal concentrations of 3-(3,4-dichlorophenyl)1,1-dimethylurea (DCMU), which seemed to mimic photo-inhibition of PSII. These results suggest that the main role of adjusting the photosystem stoichiometry with respect to light intensity is not to maintain efficient photosynthesis, but to down regulate electron transfer. Failure to down regulate electron flow leads to cell death under prolonged exposure to high light in this cyanobacterium.
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