Molecular mechanism of photo-regulation in cyanobacteria


Red-light perception and red-shifted chlorophylls: evolutionary consequences. The importance of red light is highlighted by the diversity of photoreceptors and the potential enhanced photosynthetic efficiency by using red-shifted chlorophylls. Elucidating photoregulatory mechanism driven by red/far-red light will allow us to understand the formation and evolutionary significance of red-shifted chlorophylls.


Professor Min Chen

Research Location

School of Life and Environmental Sciences

Program Type



Light is both an energy source and a deliverer of environmental information. There are two kinds of photopigment-binding protein complexes in photosynthetic organisms: one to absorb and convert sunlight as the energy source, and another to sense sunlight as an environmental information carrier. Different photosynthetic pigments allow the organism to use a wider spectral region of sunlight. The discovery of red-shifted chlorophylls in two cyanobacteria has expanded how photosynthetic organisms take advantage of red-shifted chlorophylls (Chl d and Chl f) to extend their spectral absorption (Chen et al. 2010; Chen and Blankenship 2011). The unique ecological niche where organisms that use red-shifted chlorophylls (Chl d and Chl f) were found (Kuhl et al. 2005; Chen et al 2010; Mohr et al. 2010; Behrendt et al. 2011; Larkum et al. 2012) raises a number of interesting questions. How do these cyanobacteria produce red-shifted chlorophylls? What kind of photoregulatory mechanisms do these cyanobacteria use to sense light conditions? Is far-red light necessary for the formation of the red-shifted chlorophylls?

The project will focus on identify the red-light perception molecules and their relationship with chlorophyll modification.  The project will involve using sequence analysis (bioinformatic comparisons), PCR/RT-PCR, protein isolation, SDSPAGE and proteomic analyses.

Additional Information

•    Current PhD/Hons topics being undertaken at the location or with the supervisors
Three PhD Projects are being undertaken in A/Prof Chen’s laboratory.
1.    Light-harvesting systems in Chromera velia
2.    Function of antenna systems in a newly isolated cyanobacterium containing chlorophyll f
3.    Global protein analysis of cyanobacterium Acaryochloris marina under various oxygen-stressed conditions.

•    Is the opportunity also available for Honours students?
Yes, one-year potential projects are available for honours students. Details please contact A/Prof Min Chen (

•    Techniques, methodologies, research approaches, technologies, etc., employed by the project - e.g., electron microscopy, textual analysis, etc.
Pigment and pigment-bound protein analyses are performed by using a spectrophotometer, fluorescence photometer and other molecular spectral analysis methods.

General protein isolation and characteristic methods, such as electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE, IEF, Western Blotting, Native electrophoresis, 2-D gel, peptide mass finger printing and other proteomic analysis.

Chromatographic anaylsis such as HPLC (high-performance liquid chromatography), FPLC (Fast protein liquid chromatography), gel filtration and ion-exchanging columns for proteins and protein-complexes purification.
DNA, RNA isolation, PCR (DNA as templates) and RT-PCR (RNA as templates), Gene transformation and functional studies in vitro.

General biochemical and molecular biological experiences are required for potential students who want to study inthe laboratory. Hons A or similar experiences is required.

• Scholarships/funding available
ARC Centre of Excellent for Translational Photosynthesis (2014-2020)
Biosynthesis of chlorophylls (ARC Future Fellow, 2013-2016)
ARC Discovery Project (2012-2014)

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Photosynthesis, evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis, chlorophyll, light-harvesting complexes, phycobiliproteins, chlorophyll-binding protein complexes, proteomics of membrane-bound protein complexes, Protein structural models. Stress-response plant physiology (light, oxygen and nutrients), biosynthesis of chlorophyll and other photopigments. Acaryochloris, blue-green algae, cyanobacteria, Bioinformatics and functional genomics, hongdechloris

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 1309

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