During a transition from high growth irradiance (700 micromoles quanta per square meter per second) to low growth irradiance (70 micromoles quanta per square meter per second), the unicellular marine chlorophyte Dunaliella tertiolecta Butcher increases the cellular pool size of the light-harvesting complex of photosystem II (LHC II). We showed that the increase in LHC II apoproteins and in chlorophyll content per cell is preceded by an approximately fourfold increase in cab mRNA. The increase in cab mRNA is detectable within 1.5 hours following a shift from high to low light intensity. An increase in the relative abundance of cab mRNA was also found following a shift from high light to darkness and from high light to low light in the presence of gabaculine, a chlorophyll synthesis inhibitor. However, the LHC II apoproteins did not accumulate in the latter experiments, suggesting that LHC II apoprotein synthesis is coupled to chlorophyll synthesis at or beyond translation. We propose that changes in energy balance brought about by a change in light intensity may control a regulatory factor acting to repress cab mRNA expression in high light.
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