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Algal photoprotection is regulated by the E3 ligase CUL4–DDB1DET1


Light is essential for photosynthesis, but the amounts of light that exceed an organism’s assimilation capacity can cause serious damage1. Photosynthetic organisms minimize such potential harm through protection mechanisms collectively referred to as non-photochemical quenching2. One mechanism of non-photochemical quenching called energy-dependent quenching (qE quenching) is readily activated under high-light conditions and dissipates excess energy as heat. LIGHT-HARVESTING COMPLEX STRESS-RELATED PROTEINS 1 and 3 (LHCSR1 and LHCSR3) have been proposed to mediate qE quenching in the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii when grown under high-light conditions3. LHCSR3 induction requires a blue-light photoreceptor, PHOTOTROPIN (PHOT)4, although the signal transduction pathway between PHOT and LHCSR3 is not yet clear. Here, we identify two phot suppressor loci involved in qE quenching: de-etiolated 1 (det1)5 and damaged DNA-binding 1 (ddb1)6. Using a yeast two-hybrid analysis and an inhibitor assay, we determined that these two genetic elements are part of a protein complex containing CULLIN 4 (CUL4). These findings suggest a photoprotective role for the putative E3 ubiquitin ligase CUL4–DDB1DET1 in unicellular photosynthetic organisms that may mediate blue-light signals to LHCSR1 and LHCSR3 gene expression.

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Fig. 1: Isolation of phot suppressor mutants.
Fig. 2: NPQ, LHCSRs transcripts and LHCSR protein levels in the suppressor mutants.
Fig. 3: Complementation tests for the det1 and ddb1 mutant loci.
Fig. 4: Yeast two-hybrid assay, neddylation inhibitor assay and schematic model.

Data availability

The data supporting the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


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We thank C. Noda for help with the pigment analysis, and X. W. Deng and M. Ishikawa for valuable discussions. This study was supported by Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (JP16H06553 and JP26251033 to J.M.).

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Y.A. and J.M. conceived the work and wrote the manuscript. Y.A., K.F.-K. and T.Y. performed the experiments. All authors designed the experiments, analysed and discussed the results, and approved the final version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jun Minagawa.

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Aihara, Y., Fujimura-Kamada, K., Yamasaki, T. et al. Algal photoprotection is regulated by the E3 ligase CUL4–DDB1DET1. Nature Plants 5, 34–40 (2019).

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