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Regulation Of Photosynthetic Gene Expression In Purple Bacteria.

J. M. Pemberton, I. Horne, A. McEwan
Published 1998 · Biology, Medicine

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Purple phototrophic bacteria have the ability to capture and use sunlight efficiently as an energy source. In these organisms, photosynthesis is carried out under anaerobic conditions. The introduction of oxygen into a culture growing phototrophically results in a rapid decrease in the synthesis of components of the photosynthetic apparatus and a change to an alternative source of energy, usually derived from the degradation of organic compounds under aerobic conditions (chemoheterotrophy). Switching back and forth between anaerobic (photosynthetic) and aerobic growth requires tight regulation of photosynthetic gene expression at the molecular level. Initial experiments by Cohen-Bazire et al. (1957) showed quite clearly that the regulation of photosynthetic gene expression was in response to two environmental stimuli. The most potent stimulus was oxygen; its presence shut down production of photosynthetic pigments very rapidly. To a lesser extent photosynthetic gene expression responded to light intensity. Low light intensity produced high levels of photosynthetic pigments; high light intensities caused a decrease, but the effect was less dramatic than that observed for oxygen. Since these initial observations were made in Rhodobacter sphaeroides some forty years ago, a great deal has been revealed as to the nature of the genes that encode the various components of the photosynthetic apparatus. Recent progress in the understanding of the regulation of expression of these genes in R. sphaeroides and Rhodobacter capsulatus is the subject of this review.
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