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Plant Cell. 2011 Jul;23(7):2619-30. doi: 10.1105/tpc.111.086876. Epub 2011 Jul 15.

Control of hydrogen photoproduction by the proton gradient generated by cyclic electron flow in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.

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Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives, Direction des Sciences du Vivant, Institut de Biologie Environementale et de Biotechnologie, Laboratoire de Bioénergétique et Biotechnologie des Bactéries et Microalgues, Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique Cadarache, 13108 Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, France.


Hydrogen photoproduction by eukaryotic microalgae results from a connection between the photosynthetic electron transport chain and a plastidial hydrogenase. Algal H₂ production is a transitory phenomenon under most natural conditions, often viewed as a safety valve protecting the photosynthetic electron transport chain from overreduction. From the colony screening of an insertion mutant library of the unicellular green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii based on the analysis of dark-light chlorophyll fluorescence transients, we isolated a mutant impaired in cyclic electron flow around photosystem I (CEF) due to a defect in the Proton Gradient Regulation Like1 (PGRL1) protein. Under aerobiosis, nonphotochemical quenching of fluorescence (NPQ) is strongly decreased in pgrl1. Under anaerobiosis, H₂ photoproduction is strongly enhanced in the pgrl1 mutant, both during short-term and long-term measurements (in conditions of sulfur deprivation). Based on the light dependence of NPQ and hydrogen production, as well as on the enhanced hydrogen production observed in the wild-type strain in the presence of the uncoupling agent carbonyl cyanide p-trifluoromethoxyphenylhydrazone, we conclude that the proton gradient generated by CEF provokes a strong inhibition of electron supply to the hydrogenase in the wild-type strain, which is released in the pgrl1 mutant. Regulation of the trans-thylakoidal proton gradient by monitoring pgrl1 expression opens new perspectives toward reprogramming the cellular metabolism of microalgae for enhanced H₂ production.

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