Light-harvesting antennae are critical for collecting energy from sunlight and providing it to photosynthetic reaction centers. Their abundance and composition are tightly regulated to maintain efficient photosynthesis in changing light conditions. Many cyanobacteria alter their light-harvesting antennae in response to changes in ambient light-color conditions through the process of chromatic acclimation. The control of green light induction (Cgi) pathway is a light-color-sensing system that controls the expression of photosynthetic genes during chromatic acclimation, and while some evidence suggests that it operates via transcription attenuation, the components of this pathway have not been identified. We provide evidence that translation initiation factor 3 (IF3), an essential component of the prokaryotic translation initiation machinery that binds the 30S subunit and blocks premature association with the 50S subunit, is part of the control of green light induction pathway. Light regulation of gene expression has not been previously described for any translation initiation factor. Surprisingly, deletion of the IF3-encoding gene infCa was not lethal in the filamentous cyanobacterium Fremyella diplosiphon, and its genome was found to contain a second, redundant, highly divergent infC gene which, when deleted, had no effect on photosynthetic gene expression. Either gene could complement an Escherichia coli infC mutant and thus both encode bona fide IF3s. Analysis of prokaryotic and eukaryotic genome databases established that multiple infC genes are present in the genomes of diverse groups of bacteria and land plants, most of which do not undergo chromatic acclimation. This suggests that IF3 may have repeatedly evolved important roles in the regulation of gene expression in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes.
Keywords: phycobilisome; phycocyanin; phycoerythrin; signal transduction.