The Photosystem (PS) II of cyanobacteria, green algae and higher plants is prone to light-induced inactivation, the D1 protein being the primary target of such damage. As a consequence, the D1 protein, encoded by the psbA gene, is degraded and re-synthesized in a multistep process called PSII repair cycle. In cyanobacteria, a small gene family codes for the various, functionally distinct D1 isoforms. In these organisms, the regulation of the psbA gene expression occurs mainly at the level of transcription, but the expression is fine-tuned by regulation of translation elongation. In plants and green algae, the D1 protein is encoded by a single psbA gene located in the chloroplast genome. In chloroplasts of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii the psbA gene expression is strongly regulated by mRNA processing, and particularly at the level of translation initiation. In chloroplasts of higher plants, translation elongation is the prevalent mechanism for regulation of the psbA gene expression. The pre-existing pool of psbA transcripts forms translation initiation complexes in plant chloroplasts even in darkness, while the D1 synthesis can be completed only in the light. Replacement of damaged D1 protein requires also the assistance by a number of auxiliary proteins, which are encoded by the nuclear genome in green algae and higher plants. Nevertheless, many of these chaperones are conserved between prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Here, we describe the specific features and fundamental differences of the psbA gene expression and the regeneration of the PSII reaction center protein D1 in cyanobacteria, green algae and higher plants. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Photosystem II.
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