Background: Photosystem II (PSII) is the most thermally sensitive component of photosynthesis. Thermal acclimation of this complex activity is likely to be critically important to the ability of photosynthetic organisms to tolerate temperature changes in the environment.
Methodology/findings: We have analysed gene expression using whole-genome microarrays and monitored alterations in physiology during acclimation of PSII to elevated growth temperature in Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. PSII acclimation is complete within 480 minutes of exposure to elevated temperature and is associated with a highly dynamic transcriptional response. 176 genes were identified and classified into seven distinct response profile groups. Response profiles suggest the existence of an early transient phase and a sustained phase to the acclimation response. The early phase was characterised by induction of general stress response genes, including heat shock proteins, which are likely to influence PSII thermal stability. The sustained phase consisted of acclimation-specific alterations that are involved in other cellular processes. Sustained responses included genes involved in phycobillisome structure and modification, photosynthesis, respiration, lipid metabolism and motility. Approximately 60% of genes with sustained altered expression levels have no known function. The potential role of differentially expressed genes in thermotolerance and acclimation is discussed. We have characterised the acclimation physiology of selected gene 'knockouts' to elucidate possible gene function in the response.
Conclusions/significance: All mutants show lower PSII rates under normal growth conditions. Basal PSII thermotolerance was affected by mutations in clpB1, cpcC2, hspA, htpG and slr1674. Final PSII thermotolerance was affected by mutations in cpcC2, hik34, hspA and hypA1, suggesting that these gene products play roles in long-term thermal acclimation of PSII.