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J Bacteriol. 1997 Jan;179(1):24-30.

Photoresponses in Rhodobacter sphaeroides: role of photosynthetic electron transport.

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  • 1Microbiology Unit, Biochemistry Department, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.


Rhodobacter sphaeroides responds to a decrease in light intensity by a transient stop followed by adaptation. There is no measurable response to increases in light intensity. We confirmed that photosynthetic electron transport is essential for a photoresponse, as (i) inhibitors of photosynthetic electron transport inhibit photoresponses, (ii) electron transport to oxidases in the presence of oxygen reduces the photoresponse, and (iii) the magnitude of the response is dependent on the photopigment content of the cells. The photoresponses of cells grown in high light, which have lower concentrations of light-harvesting photopigment and reaction centers, saturated at much higher light intensities than the photoresponses of cells grown in low light, which have high concentrations of light-harvesting pigments and reaction centers. We examined whether the primary sensory signal from the photosynthetic electron transport chain was a change in the electrochemical proton gradient or a change in the rate of electron transport itself (probably reflecting redox sensing). R. sphaeroides showed no response to the addition of the proton ionophore carbonyl cyanide 4-trifluoromethoxyphenylhydrazone, which decreased the electrochemical proton gradient, although a behavioral response was seen to a reduction in light intensity that caused an equivalent reduction in proton gradient. These results strongly suggest that (i) the photosynthetic apparatus is the primary photoreceptor, (ii) the primary signal is generated by a change in the rate of electron transport, (iii) the change in the electrochemical proton gradient is not the primary photosensory signal, and (iv) stimuli affecting electron transport rates integrate via the electron transport chain.

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