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Phototaxis in cyanobacteria and the role of photoreceptors

In plants phytochromes are the most important photoreceptors for photomorphogenesis. We were the first who demonstrated the existence of this photoreceptor in the model cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. Little is known about the physiological roles played by the red/far red light absorbing photoreceptors in bacteria. For one of the two bona fide phytochromes in the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 we have shown that this protein is involved in the regulation of phototaxis via changes in the c-di-GMP level.
Recently, we have revealed how cyanobacterial cells see the direction of light. The spherical Synechocystis cells focus the light from an unidirectional light source at the opposite site of the cell. This focussed light spot is sensed by the cell which then moves away from the intense light spot but towards the light source. Thus, bacterial cells are physical objects which have micro-optic properties. These properties might have several implications for light harvesting, light damage and light-dependent signalling effects.


Prof. Conrad Mullineaux, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary, University of London

Prof. Jan Korvink, Institute of Microstructure Technology, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

Prof. Lars-Oliver Essen, University Marburg



Schuergers N, Lenn T, Kampmann R, Meissner MV, Esteves T, Temerinac-Ott M, Korvink JG, Lowe AR, Mullineaux CW, Wilde A. (2016) Cyanobacteria use micro-optics to sense light direction. eLife 5 doi: 10.7554/eLife.12620.


Wilde A, Mullineaux CW. (2015) Motility in cyanobacteria: polysaccharide tracks and Type IV pilus motors. Mol Microbiol. 98, 998-1001.


Schuergers N, Wilde A. (2015) Appendages of the cyanobacterial cell. Life 5, 700-715.


Schuergers N, Nürnberg DJ, Wallner T, Mullineaux CW, Wilde A. (2015) PilB localisation correlates with the direction of twitching motility in the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. Microbiology 161, 960-966


Schuergers N, Ruppert U, Watanabe S, Nürnberg DJ, Lochnit G, Dienst D, Mullineaux CW, Wilde A. (2014) Binding of the RNA chaperone Hfq to the type IV pilus base is crucial for its function in Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. Mol. Microbiol. 92, 840-852.


Savakis P, De Causmaecker S, Angerer V, Ruppert U, Anders K, Essen LO, Wilde A. (2012)  Light-induced alteration of c-di-GMP level controls motility of Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. Mol. Microbiol. 85, 239-251.


Fiedler, B., Börner, T., Wilde, A. (2005) Phototaxis in the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC6803: Role of different photoreceptors. Photochem. Photobiol. 81, 1481-1488.


Fiedler, B., Broc, D., Schubert, H., Rediger, A., Börner, T., Wilde, A. (2004) Involvement of cyanobacterial phytochromes in growth under different light qualities and quantities. Photochem. Photobiol. 79, 551-555.

Wilde, A., Fiedler, B., Börner, T. (2002) The cyanobacterial phytochrome Cph2 inhibits phototaxis towards blue light. Mol. Microbiol. 44, 981-988.


Hughes, J., Lamparter, T., Mittmann, F., Hartmann, E., Gärtner, W., Wilde, A., Börner, T. (1997) A prokaryotic phytochrome. Nature 386, 663.

Wilde, A., Churin, Y., Schubert, H., Börner, T. (1997) Disruption of a Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 gene with partial similarity to phytochrome genes alters growth under changing light qualities. FEBS Lett. 406, 89-92.


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