Auxiliary electron transport pathways in chloroplasts of microalgae

Photosynth Res. 2010 Nov;106(1-2):19-31. doi: 10.1007/s11120-010-9575-3. Epub 2010 Jul 7.


Microalgae are photosynthetic organisms which cover an extraordinary phylogenic diversity and have colonized extremely diverse habitats. Adaptation to contrasted environments in terms of light and nutrient's availabilities has been possible through a high flexibility of the photosynthetic machinery. Indeed, optimal functioning of photosynthesis in changing environments requires a fine tuning between the conversion of light energy by photosystems and its use by metabolic reaction, a particularly important parameter being the balance between phosphorylating (ATP) and reducing (NADPH) power supplies. In addition to the main route of electrons operating during oxygenic photosynthesis, called linear electron flow or Z scheme, auxiliary routes of electron transfer in interaction with the main pathway have been described. These reactions which include non-photochemical reduction of intersystem electron carriers, cyclic electron flow around PSI, oxidation by molecular O(2) of the PQ pool or of the PSI electron acceptors, participate in the flexibility of photosynthesis by avoiding over-reduction of electron carriers and modulating the NADPH/ATP ratio depending on the metabolic demand. Forward or reverse genetic approaches performed in model organisms such as Arabidopsis thaliana for higher plants, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii for green algae and Synechocystis for cyanobacteria allowed identifying molecular components involved in these auxiliary electron transport pathways, including Ndh-1, Ndh-2, PGR5, PGRL1, PTOX and flavodiiron proteins. In this article, we discuss the diversity of auxiliary routes of electron transport in microalgae, with particular focus in the presence of these components in the microalgal genomes recently sequenced. We discuss how these auxiliary mechanisms of electron transport may have contributed to the adaptation of microalgal photosynthesis to diverse and changing environments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Cell Respiration
  • Chloroplasts / metabolism*
  • Electron Transport
  • Microalgae / metabolism*
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Photosynthesis
  • Photosystem I Protein Complex / metabolism


  • Photosystem I Protein Complex
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Oxygen