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Membrane fluidity controls redox-regulated cold stress responses in cyanobacteria


Membrane fluidity is the important regulator of cellular responses to changing ambient temperature. Bacteria perceive cold by the transmembrane histidine kinases that sense changes in thickness of the cytoplasmic membrane due to its rigidification. In the cyanobacterium Synechocystis, about a half of cold-responsive genes is controlled by the light-dependent transmembrane histidine kinase Hik33, which also partially controls the responses to osmotic, salt, and oxidative stress. This implies the existence of some universal, but yet unknown signal that triggers adaptive gene expression in response to various stressors. Here we selectively probed the components of photosynthetic machinery and functionally characterized the thermodynamics of cyanobacterial photosynthetic membranes with genetically altered fluidity. We show that the rate of oxidation of the quinone pool (PQ), which interacts with both photosynthetic and respiratory electron transport chains, depends on membrane fluidity. Inhibitor-induced stimulation of redox changes in PQ triggers cold-induced gene expression. Thus, the fluidity-dependent changes in the redox state of PQ may universally trigger cellular responses to stressors that affect membrane properties.

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Electron transport chain






Fatty acid


Fatty acid desaturase


Fluorescence induction


Modulated reflection


Plastoquinone pool


Unsaturated fatty acid


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This work was supported by the grant from Russian Science Foundation (14-24-00020) to D.A.L. E.G.M. was supported by a grant from Russian Foundation for Basic Research (No. 15-04-01930a), Russian Ministry of Education and Science (project MK-5949.2015.4), and by RFBR and Moscow city Government according to the research project no. 15-34-70007 «mol_а_mos». P.V.F. was supported by a grant from Russian Foundation for Basic Research (No. 16-34-50175 mol_nr). S.I.A. was supported by Russian Science Foundation (Grant No. 14-14-00039).

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Correspondence to Dmitry A. Los.

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Maksimov, E.G., Mironov, K.S., Trofimova, M.S. et al. Membrane fluidity controls redox-regulated cold stress responses in cyanobacteria. Photosynth Res 133, 215–223 (2017).

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  • Cyanobacteria
  • Desaturase
  • Fatty acids
  • Fluidity
  • Fluorescence
  • Membrane
  • Lipids
  • Plastoquinone pool
  • Photosystem II
  • Photosystem I
  • Redox regulation