Sodium Dependency of the Photosynthetic Electron Transport in the Alkaliphilic Cyanobacterium Arthrospira platensis

D. Pogoryelov, P. R. Sudhir, L. Kovács, Z. Gombos, I. Brown, G. Garab

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26 Citations (Scopus)


Arthrospira (Spirulina) platensis (A. platensis) is a model organism for investigation of adaptation of photosynthetic organisms to extreme environmental conditions: the cell functions in this cyanobacterium are optimized to high pH and high concentration (150-250 mM) of Na+. However, the mechanism of the possible fine-tuning of the photosynthetic functions to these extreme conditions and/or the regulation of the cellular environment to optimize the photosynthetic functions is poorly understood. In this work we investigated the effect of Na-ions on different photosynthetic activities: linear electron transport reactions (measured by means of polarography and spectrophotometry), the activity of photosystem II (PS II) (thermoluminescence and chlorophyll a fluorescence induction), and redox turnover of the cytochrome b6f complex (flash photolysis); and measured the changes of the intracellular pH (9-aminoacridine fluorescence). It was found that sodium deprivation of cells in the dark at pH 10 inhibited, within 40 min, all measured photosynthetic reactions, and led to an alkalinization of the intracellular pH, which rose from the physiological value of about 8.3-9.6. These were partially and totally restored by readdition of Na-ions at 2.5-25 mM and about 200 mM, respectively. The intracellular pH and the photosynthetic functions were also sensitive to monensin, an exogenous Na+/H+ exchanger, which collapses both proton and sodium gradients across the cytoplasmic membrane. These observations explain the strict Na+-dependency of the photosynthetic electron transport at high extracellular pH, provide experimental evidence on the alkalization of the intracellular environment, and support the hypothesized role of an Na +/H+ antiport through the plasma membrane in pH homeostasis (Schlesinger et al. (1996). J. Phycol. 32, 608-613). Further, we show that (i) the specific site of inactivation of the photosynthetic electron transport at alkaline pH is to be found at the water splitting enzyme; (ii) in contrast to earlier reports, the inactivation occurs in the dark and, for short periods, without detectable damage in the photosynthetic apparatus; and (iii) in contrast to high pH, Na+ dependency in the neutral pH range is shown not to originate from PSII, but from the acceptor side of PSI. These data permit us to conclude that the intracellular environment rather than the machinery of the photosynthetic electron transport is adjusted to the extreme conditions of high pH and high Na+ concentration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-437
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Bioenergetics and Biomembranes
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2003


  • Alkaliphile
  • Arthrospira (Spirulina) platensis
  • Cyanobacteria
  • PH homeostasis
  • Photosynthesis
  • Sodium/proton antiport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cell Biology

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