Vascular plants contain abundant, light-harvesting complexes in the thylakoid membrane that are non-covalently associated with chlorophylls and carotenoids. These light-harvesting chlorophyll a/b binding (LHC) proteins are members of an extended CAB/ELIP/HLIP superfamily of distantly related polypeptides, which have between one and four transmembrane helices (TMH). This superfamily includes the single TMH, high-light-inducible proteins (Hlips), found in cyanobacteria that are induced by various stress conditions, including high light, and are considered ancestral to the LHC proteins. The roles of, and evolutionary relationships between, these superfamily members are of particular interest, since they function in both light harvesting and photoprotection and may have evolved through tandem gene duplication and fusion events. We have investigated the Hlips (hli gene family) in the thermophilic unicellular cyanobacterium Synechococcus OS-B'. The five hli genes present on the genome of Synechococcus OS-B' are relatively similar, but transcript analyses indicate that there are different patterns of transcript accumulation when the cells are exposed to various growth conditions, suggesting that different Hlips may have specific functions. Hlip5 has an additional TMH at the N-terminus as a result of a novel fusion event. This additional TMH is very similar to a conserved hypothetical, single membrane-spanning polypeptide present in most cyanobacteria. The evolutionary significance of these results is discussed.