Light-responsive gene expression is crucial to photosynthesizing organisms. Here, we studied functions of cis-elements (AU-box and SD sequences) and a trans-acting factor (ribonuclease, RNase) in light-responsive expression in cyanobacteria. The results indicated that AU-rich nucleotides with an AU-box, UAAAUAAA, just upstream from an SD confer instability on the mRNA under darkness. An RNase E/G homologue, Slr1129, of the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. strain PCC 6803 was purified and confirmed capable of endoribonucleolytic cleavage at the AU- (or AG)-rich sequences in vitro. The cleavage depends on the primary target sequence and secondary structure of the mRNA. Complementation tests using Escherichia coli rne/rng mutants showed that Slr1129 fulfilled the functions of both the RNase E and RNase G. An analysis of systematic mutations in the AU-box and SD sequences showed that the cis-elements also affect significantly mRNA stability in light-responsive genes. These results strongly suggested that dark-induced mRNA instability involves RNase E/G-type cleavage at the AU-box and SD sequences in cyanobacteria. The mechanical impact and a possible common mechanism with RNases for light-responsive gene expression are discussed.