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Dann, Marcel, Ortiz, Edgardo M., Thomas, Moritz, Guljamow, Arthur, Lehmann, Martin, Schaefer, Hanno and Leister, Dario (2021): Enhancing photosynthesis at high light levels by adaptive laboratory evolution. In: Nature Plants, Vol. 7, No. 5: pp. 681-695

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Iterating mutagenesis and exposure to increasing light dramatically enhanced the light tolerance of a Synechocystis cyanobacterium strain. This involved over 100 mutations grouped around five haplotypes, as well as putative epistatic interactions. Photosynthesis is readily impaired by high light (HL) levels. Photosynthetic organisms have therefore evolved various mechanisms to cope with the problem. Here, we have dramatically enhanced the light tolerance of the cyanobacterium Synechocystis by adaptive laboratory evolution (ALE). By combining repeated mutagenesis and exposure to increasing light intensities, we generated strains that grow under extremely HL intensities. HL tolerance was associated with more than 100 mutations in proteins involved in various cellular functions, including gene expression, photosynthesis and metabolism. Co-evolved mutations were grouped into five haplotypes, and putative epistatic interactions were identified. Two representative mutations, introduced into non-adapted cells, each confer enhanced HL tolerance, but they affect photosynthesis and respiration in different ways. Mutations identified by ALE that allow photosynthetic microorganisms to cope with altered light conditions could be employed in assisted evolution approaches and could strengthen the robustness of photosynthesis in crop plants.

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