Cyanobacterial phycobilisomes harvest light and cause energy migration usually toward photosystem II reaction centers. Energy transfer from phycobilisomes directly to photosystem I may occur under certain light conditions. The phycobilisomes are highly organized complexes of various biliproteins and linker polypeptides. Phycobilisomes are composed of rods and a core. The biliproteins have their bilins (chromophores) arranged to produce rapid and directional energy migration through the phycobilisomes and to chlorophyll a in the thylakoid membrane. The modulation of the energy levels of the four chemically different bilins by a variety of influences produces more efficient light harvesting and energy migration. Acclimation of cyanobacterial phycobilisomes to growth light by complementary chromatic adaptation is a complex process that changes the ratio of phycocyanin to phycoerythrin in rods of certain phycobilisomes to improve light harvesting in changing habitats. The linkers govern the assembly of the biliproteins into phycobilisomes, and, even if colorless, in certain cases they have been shown to improve the energy migration process. The Lcm polypeptide has several functions, including the linker function of determining the organization of the phycobilisome cores. Details of how linkers perform their tasks are still topics of interest. The transfer of excitation energy from bilin to bilin is considered, particularly for monomers and trimers of C-phycocyanin, phycoerythrocyanin, and allophycocyanin. Phycobilisomes are one of the ways cyanobacteria thrive in varying and sometimes extreme habitats. Various biliprotein properties perhaps not related to photosynthesis are considered: the photoreversibility of phycoviolobilin, biophysical studies, and biliproteins in evolution. Copyright 1998 Academic Press.