The team found that the gene encoding the MpeZ enzyme is activated in blue light. Once produced, MpeZ then binds to antenna proteins containing pigments that normally catch green light and attaches an alternative chromophore that allows the antennae to capture blue light. The specific mechanism, called type IV chromatic acclimation, involves replacing three molecules of the green light-absorbing chromophore with an equal number of blue light-absorbing chromophore. This color-shifting is reversible and is controlled by the ratio of blue to green light in the environment.
"These 'chromatic adapters' are true chameleons that can efficiently live in green coastal waters as well as in blue offshore waters by modifying their pigmentation," Kehoe said. "Synechococcus cells maintained in blue light harvest preferentially blue light, while cells grown in green light harvest more green."
"A phycoerythrin-specific bilin lyase-isomerase controls blue-green chromatic acclimation in marine Synechococcus" was published online in the Early Edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Co-authors with Kehoe, also affiliated with IU Bloomington's Indiana Molecular Biology Institute, were IU Ph.D. student Animesh Shukla; Avijit Biswas and Wendy M. Schluchter of the University of New Orleans; Nicolas Blot of Universit Pierre et Marie Curie - Paris 06, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Clermont Universit in France; Frederic Partensky and Laurence Garczarek of Universit Pierre et Marie Curie - Paris 06 and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique; IU Bloomington Department of Chemistry METACyt Biochemical Analysis Center mass spectrometry facility manager and assistant scientist Jonathan A. Karty and assistant scientist Loubna A. Hammad; and former IU biology graduate student Andrian Gutu, now of Harvard University.
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