In higher plants, the photosystem (PS) II core and its several light harvesting antenna (LHCII) proteins undergo reversible phosphorylation cycles according to the light intensity. High light intensity induces strong phosphorylation of the PSII core proteins and suppresses the phosphorylation level of the LHCII proteins. Decrease in light intensity, in turn, suppresses the phosphorylation of PSII core, but strongly induces the phosphorylation of LHCII. Reversible and differential phosphorylation of the PSII-LHCII proteins is dependent on the interplay between the STN7 and STN8 kinases, and the respective phosphatases. The STN7 kinase phosphorylates the LHCII proteins and to a lesser extent also the PSII core proteins D1, D2 and CP43. The STN8 kinase, on the contrary, is rather specific for the PSII core proteins. Mechanistically, the PSII-LHCII protein phosphorylation is required for optimal mobility of the PSII-LHCII protein complexes along the thylakoid membrane. Physiologically, the phosphorylation of LHCII is a prerequisite for sufficient excitation of PSI, enabling the excitation and redox balance between PSII and PSI under low irradiance, when excitation energy transfer from the LHCII antenna to the two photosystems is efficient and thermal dissipation of excitation energy (NPQ) is minimised. The importance of PSII core protein phosphorylation is manifested under highlight when the photodamage of PSII is rapid and phosphorylation is required to facilitate the migration of damaged PSII from grana stacks to stroma lamellae for repair. The importance of thylakoid protein phosphorylation is highlighted under fluctuating intensity of light where the STN7 kinase dependent balancing of electron transfer is a prerequisite for optimal growth and development of the plant. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Photosystem II.
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