Photosynthesis Research

, Volume 116, Issue 2–3, pp 489–509 | Cite as

Regulatory role of membrane fluidity in gene expression and physiological functions

  • Dmitry A. LosEmail author
  • Kirill S. Mironov
  • Suleyman I. Allakhverdiev


Plants, algae, and photosynthetic bacteria experience frequent changes in environment. The ability to survive depends on their capacity to acclimate to such changes. In particular, fluctuations in temperature affect the fluidity of cytoplasmic and thylakoid membranes. The molecular mechanisms responsible for the perception of changes in membrane fluidity have not been fully characterized. However, the understanding of the functions of the individual genes for fatty acid desaturases in cyanobacteria and plants led to the directed mutagenesis of such genes that altered the membrane fluidity of cytoplasmic and thylakoid membranes. Characterization of the photosynthetic properties of the transformed cyanobacteria and higher plants revealed that lipid unsaturation is essential for protection of the photosynthetic machinery against environmental stresses, such as strong light, salt stress, and high and low temperatures. The unsaturation of fatty acids enhances the repair of the damaged photosystem II complex under stress conditions. In this review, we summarize the knowledge on the mechanisms that regulate membrane fluidity, on putative sensors that perceive changes in membrane fluidity, on genes that are involved in acclimation to new sets of environmental conditions, and on the influence of membrane properties on photosynthetic functions.


Cold stress Cyanobacteria Membrane fluidity Fatty acid desaturases Photosynthesis 



Acyl carrier protein




Fatty acid


Fatty acid desaturase

FTIR spectroscopy

Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy


Heat shock protein


Photosystem I


Photosystem II


Polyunsaturated fatty acid


Unsaturated fatty acid





This work was supported, in part, by Grants from the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (Nos. 11-04-01389, 11-04-92101, 12-04-00473, 12-04-31496) and by Grants from the “Molecular and Cell Biology Program” of the Russian Academy of Sciences to DAL and SIA.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dmitry A. Los
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kirill S. Mironov
    • 1
  • Suleyman I. Allakhverdiev
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Plant PhysiologyRussian Academy of SciencesMoscowRussia

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