Pathway and Importance of Photorespiratory 2-Phosphoglycolate Metabolism in Cyanobacteria

  • Martin Hagemann
  • Marion Eisenhut
  • Claudia Hackenberg
  • Hermann Bauwe
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 675)


Cyanobacteria invented oxygenic photosynthesis about 3.5 billion years ago. The by-product molecular oxygen initiated the oxygenase reaction of RubisCO, the main carboxylating enzyme in photosynthetic organisms. During oxygenase reaction, the toxic side product 2-phosphoglycolate (2-PG) is produced and must be quickly metabolized. Photorespiratory 2-PG metabolism is used for this purpose by higher plants. The existence of an active 2-PG metabolism in cyanobacteria has been the subject of controversy since these organisms have evolved an efficient carbon-concentrating mechanism (CCM), which should considerably reduce the oxygenase activity of RubisCO. Based on emerging cyanobacterial genomic information, we have found clear indications for the existence of many genes possibly involved in the photorespiratory 2-PG metabolism. Using a genetic approach with the model Synechocystis sp. strain PCC 6803, we generated and characterized defined mutants in these genes to verify their function. Our results show that cyanobacteria perform an active photorespiratory 2-PG metabolism, which employs three routes in Synechocystis: a plant-like cycle, a bacterial-like glycerate pathway, and a complete decarboxylation branch. In addition to the detoxification of 2-PG, this essential metabolism helps cyanobacterial cells acclimate to high light conditions.


Cyanobacterial Cell Oxygenic Photosynthesis Cyanobacterial Strain Glycolate Oxidase Cyanobacterial Genome 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors would like to thank Dr. Aaron Kaplan, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel, and Dr. Hans C. P. Matthijs, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, for fruitful cooperation during the work on cyanobacterial photorespiration. This work was supported by grants from the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Hagemann
    • 1
  • Marion Eisenhut
    • 2
  • Claudia Hackenberg
    • 1
  • Hermann Bauwe
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Biological Sciences and Plant PhysiologyUniversity of RostockRostockGermany
  2. 2.Department of Biology, Plant Physiology and Molecular BiologyUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland

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