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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Feb 14;109(7):2678-83. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1117907109. Epub 2012 Jan 30.

Detailing the optimality of photosynthesis in cyanobacteria through systems biology analysis.

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  • 1Center for Systems Biology, University of Iceland, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland.

Abstract

Photosynthesis has recently gained considerable attention for its potential role in the development of renewable energy sources. Optimizing photosynthetic organisms for biomass or biofuel production will therefore require a systems understanding of photosynthetic processes. We reconstructed a high-quality genome-scale metabolic network for Synechocystis sp. PCC6803 that describes key photosynthetic processes in mechanistic detail. We performed an exhaustive in silico analysis of the reconstructed photosynthetic process under different light and inorganic carbon (Ci) conditions as well as under genetic perturbations. Our key results include the following. (i) We identified two main states of the photosynthetic apparatus: a Ci-limited state and a light-limited state. (ii) We discovered nine alternative electron flow pathways that assist the photosynthetic linear electron flow in optimizing the photosynthesis performance. (iii) A high degree of cooperativity between alternative pathways was found to be critical for optimal autotrophic metabolism. Although pathways with high photosynthetic yield exist for optimizing growth under suboptimal light conditions, pathways with low photosynthetic yield guarantee optimal growth under excessive light or Ci limitation. (iv) Photorespiration was found to be essential for the optimal photosynthetic process, clarifying its role in high-light acclimation. Finally, (v) an extremely high photosynthetic robustness drives the optimal autotrophic metabolism at the expense of metabolic versatility and robustness. The results and modeling approach presented here may promote a better understanding of the photosynthetic process. They can also guide bioengineering projects toward optimal biofuel production in photosynthetic organisms.

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PMID:
22308420
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3289291
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