Regulation of photosynthesis by ion channels in cyanobacteria and higher plants

Biophys Chem. 2013 Dec 1;182:51-7. doi: 10.1016/j.bpc.2013.06.006. Epub 2013 Jun 29.


Photosynthesis converts light energy into chemical energy, and supplies ATP and NADPH for CO2 fixation into carbohydrates and for the synthesis of several compounds which are essential for autotrophic growth. Oxygenic photosynthesis takes place in thylakoid membranes of chloroplasts and photosynthetic prokaryote cyanobacteria. An ancestral photoautotrophic prokaryote related to cyanobacteria has been proposed to give rise to chloroplasts of plants and algae through an endosymbiotic event. Indeed, photosynthetic complexes involved in the electron transport coupled to H(+) translocation and ATP synthesis are similar in higher plants and cyanobacteria. Furthermore, some of the protein and solute/ion conducting machineries also share common structure and function. Electrophysiological and biochemical evidence support the existence of ion channels in the thylakoid membrane in both types of organisms. By allowing specific ion fluxes across thylakoid membranes, ion channels have been hypothesized to either directly or indirectly regulate photosynthesis, by modulating the proton motive force. Recent molecular identification of some of the thylakoid-located channels allowed to obtain genetic proof in favor of such hypothesis. Furthermore, some ion channels of the envelope membrane in chloroplasts have also been shown to impact on this light-driven process. Here we give an overview of thylakoid/chloroplast located ion channels of higher plants and of cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. We focus on channels shown to be implicated in the regulation of photosynthesis and discuss the possible mechanisms of action.

Keywords: Chloroplast; Cyanobacteria; Ion flux; Photosynthesis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • ATP Synthetase Complexes / metabolism
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / chemistry
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Chloroplasts / metabolism
  • Cyanobacteria / metabolism*
  • Electron Transport
  • Ion Channels / chemistry
  • Ion Channels / metabolism*
  • Photosynthesis*
  • Plants / metabolism*


  • Ion Channels
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • ATP Synthetase Complexes