Photosynthetic control of electron transport and the regulation of gene expression

C.H. Foyer, J. Neukermans, G. Queval, G. Noctor, J. Harbinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

328 Citations (Scopus)


The term ‘photosynthetic control’ describes the short- and long-term mechanisms that regulate reactions in the photosynthetic electron transport (PET) chain so that the rate of production of ATP and NADPH is coordinated with the rate of their utilization in metabolism. At low irradiances these mechanisms serve to optimize light use efficiency, while at high irradiances they operate to dissipate excess excitation energy as heat. Similarly, the production of ATP and NADPH in ratios tailored to meet demand is finely tuned by a sophisticated series of controls that prevents the accumulation of high NAD(P)H/NAD(P) ratios and ATP/ADP ratios that would lead to potentially harmful over-reduction and inactivation of PET chain components. In recent years, photosynthetic control has also been extrapolated to the regulation of gene expression because mechanisms that are identical or similar to those that serve to regulate electron flow through the PET chain also coordinate the regulated expression of genes encoding photosynthetic proteins. This requires coordinated gene expression in the chloroplasts, mitochondria, and nuclei, involving complex networks of forward and retrograde signalling pathways. Photosynthetic control operates to control photosynthetic gene expression in response to environmental and metabolic changes. Mining literature data on transcriptome profiles of C3 and C4 leaves from plants grown under high atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels compared with those grown with ambient CO2 reveals that the transition to higher photorespiratory conditions in C3 plants enhances the expression of genes associated with cyclic electron flow pathways in Arabidopsis thaliana, consistent with the higher ATP requirement (relative to NADPH) of photorespiration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1637-1661
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • atmospheric carbon-dioxide
  • long-term exposure
  • water-water cycle
  • ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase-oxygenase
  • excess excitation-energy
  • ultraviolet-b radiation
  • nitrogen-use efficiency
  • mg-protoporphyrin ix
  • co2 enrichment face
  • photosystem-i


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