Cyanobacteria possess multiple mechanisms for regulating the pathways of photosynthetic and respiratory electron transport. Electron transport may be regulated indirectly by controlling the transfer of excitation energy from the light-harvesting complexes, or it may be more directly regulated by controlling the stoichiometry, localization, and interactions of photosynthetic and respiratory electron transport complexes. Regulation of the extent of linear vs. cyclic electron transport is particularly important for controlling the redox balance of the cell. This review discusses what is known of the regulatory mechanisms and the timescales on which they occur, with particular regard to the structural reorganization needed and the constraints imposed by the limited mobility of membrane-integral proteins in the crowded thylakoid membrane. Switching mechanisms requiring substantial movement of integral thylakoid membrane proteins occur on slower timescales than those that require the movement only of cytoplasmic or extrinsic membrane proteins. This difference is probably due to the restricted diffusion of membrane-integral proteins. Multiple switching mechanisms may be needed to regulate electron transport on different timescales.
Keywords: cyanobacteria; electron transport; light-harvesting; orange carotenoid protein; phycobilisome; state transitions; thylakoid membrane.