Mechanisms and fitness implications of photomorphogenesis during chromatic acclimation in cyanobacteria

J Exp Bot. 2016 Jul;67(14):4079-90. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erw206. Epub 2016 May 23.


Photosynthetic organisms absorb photons and convert light energy to chemical energy through the process of photosynthesis. Photosynthetic efficiency is tuned in response to the availability of light, carbon dioxide and nutrients to promote maximal levels of carbon fixation, while simultaneously limiting the potential for light-associated damage or phototoxicity. Given the central dependence on light for energy production, photosynthetic organisms possess abilities to tune their growth, development and metabolism to external light cues in the process of photomorphogenesis. Photosynthetic organisms perceive light intensity and distinct wavelengths or colors of light to promote organismal acclimation. Cyanobacteria are oxygenic photosynthetic prokaryotes that exhibit abilities to alter specific aspects of growth, including photosynthetic pigment composition and morphology, in responses to changes in available wavelengths and intensity of light. This form of photomorphogenesis is known as chromatic acclimation and has been widely studied. Recent insights into the photosensory photoreceptors found in cyanobacteria and developments in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms initiated by light sensing to affect the changes characteristic of chromatic acclimation are discussed. I consider cyanobacterial responses to light, the broad diversity of photoreceptors encoded by these organisms, specific mechanisms of photomorphogenesis, and associated fitness implications in chromatically acclimating cyanobacteria.

Keywords: Chromatic acclimation; cyanobacteria; cyanobacteriochromes; light sensing; photomorphogenesis; photosensing..

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization / physiology
  • Cyanobacteria / growth & development
  • Cyanobacteria / metabolism*
  • Cyanobacteria / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant / physiology
  • Photoreceptors, Plant / physiology
  • Photosynthesis / physiology*


  • Photoreceptors, Plant