Ryan-Keogh T J, Macey, A.I., Cockshutt, A.M., Moore, C.M., Bibby, T.S.

Iron availability limits primary production in >30% of the world’s oceans; hence phytoplankton have developed acclimation strategies. In particular, cyanobacteria express IsiA (iron-stress-induced) under iron stress, which can become the most abundant chl-binding protein in the cell. Within iron-limited oceanic regions with significant cyanobacterial biomass, IsiA may represent a significant fraction of the total chl. We spectroscopically measured the effective cross-section of the photosynthetic reaction center PSI (σPSI ) in vivo and biochemically quantified the absolute abundance of PSI, PSII, and IsiA in the model cyanobacterium Synechocystis  sp. PCC 6803. We demonstrate that accumulation of IsiA results in a 60% increase in σPSI , in agreement with the theoretical increase in cross-section based on the structure of the biochemically isolated IsiA-PSI supercomplex from cyanobacteria. Deriving a chl budget, we suggest that IsiA plays a primary role as a light-harvesting antenna for PSI. On progressive iron-stress in culture, IsiA continues to accumulate without a concomitant increase in σPSI , suggesting that there may be a secondary role for IsiA. In natural populations, the potential physiological significance of the uncoupled pool of IsiA remains to be established. However, the functional role as a PSI antenna suggests that a large fraction of IsiA-bound chl is directly involved in photosynthetic electron transport.

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The in vivo effective absorption cross-section of PSI (σPSI) measured on Synechocystis PCC 6803 under iron-replete (+Fe) and iron-deplete (-Fe) conditions. Displayed are results averaged from triplicates from three independent experiments with ±standard errors.