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J Exp Bot. 2017 May 17;68(11):2667-2681. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erx137.

A systems-wide understanding of photosynthetic acclimation in algae and higher plants.

Author information

Cluster of Excellence on Plant Sciences (CEPLAS), Institute of Quantitative and Theoretical Biology, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Germany.
Bantry Marine Research Station, Gearhies, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland P75 AX07.
Department of Biological and Medical Sciences, Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom.
University of Verona, Department of Biotechnology, Italy.
Department of Botany and Plant Biology, University of Geneva, Switzerland.
LUNAM, University of Nantes, GEPEA, UMR-CNRS 6144, France.
Sorbonne Universités, UPMC, Institut de Biologie Paris-Seine, CNRS, Laboratoire de Biologie Computationnelle et Quantitative, 15 rue de l'Ecole de Médecine, 75006 Paris, France.
Laboratoire de Physiologie Cellulaire et Végétale, UMR 5168, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives (CEA), Institut National Recherche Agronomique (INRA), Institut de Biosciences et Biotechnologie de Grenoble (BIG), Université Grenoble Alpes (UGA), Grenoble 38100, France.
Fermentalg, Libourne, France.
University of Aberdeen, Scotland.


The ability of phototrophs to colonise different environments relies on robust protection against oxidative stress, a critical requirement for the successful evolutionary transition from water to land. Photosynthetic organisms have developed numerous strategies to adapt their photosynthetic apparatus to changing light conditions in order to optimise their photosynthetic yield, which is crucial for life on Earth to exist. Photosynthetic acclimation is an excellent example of the complexity of biological systems, where highly diverse processes, ranging from electron excitation over protein protonation to enzymatic processes coupling ion gradients with biosynthetic activity, interact on drastically different timescales from picoseconds to hours. Efficient functioning of the photosynthetic apparatus and its protection is paramount for efficient downstream processes, including metabolism and growth. Modern experimental techniques can be successfully integrated with theoretical and mathematical models to promote our understanding of underlying mechanisms and principles. This review aims to provide a retrospective analysis of multidisciplinary photosynthetic acclimation research carried out by members of the Marie Curie Initial Training Project, AccliPhot, placing the results in a wider context. The review also highlights the applicability of photosynthetic organisms for industry, particularly with regards to the cultivation of microalgae. It intends to demonstrate how theoretical concepts can successfully complement experimental studies broadening our knowledge of common principles in acclimation processes in photosynthetic organisms, as well as in the field of applied microalgal biotechnology.


Acclimation; European Training Network; PhD training; biodiversity; interdisciplinary training; mathematical modelling; microalgal cultivation; non-photochemical quenching; photosynthetic optimisation

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