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EMBO J. 2001 Jul 16;20(14):3623-30.

State transitions reveal the dynamics and flexibility of the photosynthetic apparatus.

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  • 1UPR-CNRS 1261, Institut de Biologie Physico-Chimique, 13 rue Pierre et Marie Curie, 75005 Paris, France.


The chloroplast-based photosynthetic apparatus of plants and algae associates various redox cofactors and pigments with approximately 70 polypeptides to form five major transmembrane protein complexes. Among these are two photosystems that have distinct light absorption properties but work in series to produce reducing equivalents aimed at the fixation of atmospheric carbon. A short term chromatic adaptation known as 'State transitions' was discovered thirty years ago that allows photosynthetic organisms to adapt to changes in light quality and intensity which would otherwise compromise the efficiency of photosynthetic energy conversion. A two-decade research effort has finally unraveled the major aspects of the molecular mechanism responsible for State transitions, and their physiological significance has been revisited. This review describes how a-still elusive-regulatory kinase senses the physiological state of the photosynthetic cell and triggers an extensive supramolecular reorganization of the photosynthetic membranes. The resulting picture of the photosynthetic apparatus is that of a highly flexible energy convertor that adapts to the ever-changing intracellular demand for ATP and/or reducing power.

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