Emerging perspectives on the mechanisms, regulation, and distribution of light color acclimation in cyanobacteria

Mol Plant. 2012 Jan;5(1):1-13. doi: 10.1093/mp/ssr054. Epub 2011 Jul 19.


Chromatic acclimation (CA) provides many cyanobacteria with the ability to tailor the properties of their light-harvesting antennae to the spectral distribution of ambient light. CA was originally discovered as a result of its dramatic cellular phenotype in red and green light. However, discoveries over the past decade have revealed that many pairs of light colors, ranging from blue to infrared, can trigger CA responses. The capacity to undergo CA is widespread geographically, occurs in most habitats around the world, and is found within all major cyanobacterial groups. In addition, many other cellular activities have been found to be under CA control, resulting in distinct physiological and morphological states for cells under different light-color conditions. Several types of CA appear to be the result of convergent evolution, where different strategies are used to achieve the final goal of optimizing light-harvesting antenna composition to maximize photon capture. The regulation of CA has been found to occur primarily at the level of RNA abundance. The CA-regulatory pathways uncovered thus far are two-component systems that use phytochrome-class photoreceptors with sensor-kinase domains to control response regulators that function as transcription factors. However, there is also at least one CA-regulatory pathway that operates at the post-transcriptional level. It is becoming increasingly clear that large numbers of cyanobacterial species have the capacity to acclimate to a wide variety of light colors through the use of a range of different CA processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Cyanobacteria / genetics
  • Cyanobacteria / physiology*
  • Cyanobacteria / radiation effects*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial / radiation effects*
  • Light


  • Bacterial Proteins