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Keywords:

  • higher plants;
  • light quality;
  • long-term response;
  • photosynthesis;
  • photosynthetic acclimation;
  • photosystem stoichiometry;
  • redox control;
  • seed production;
  • state transitions;
  • thylakoid kinases

In dense plant populations, individuals shade each other resulting in a low-light habitat that is enriched in far-red light. This light quality gradient decreases the efficiency of the photosynthetic light reaction as a result of imbalanced excitation of the two photosystems. Plants counteract such conditions by performing acclimation reactions. Two major mechanisms are known to assure efficient photosynthesis: state transitions, which act on a short-term timescale; and a long-term response, which enables the plant to re-adjust photosystem stoichiometry in favour of the rate-limiting photosystem. Both processes start with the perception of the imbalanced photosystem excitation via reduction/oxidation (redox) signals from the photosynthetic electron transport chain. Recent data in Arabidopsis indicate that initialization of the molecular processes in both cases involve the activity of the thylakoid membrane-associated kinase, STN7. Thus, redox-controlled phosphorylation events may not only adjust photosystem antenna structure but may also affect plastid, as well as nuclear, gene expression. Both state transitions and the long-term response have been described mainly in molecular terms, while the physiological relevance concerning plant survival and reproduction has been poorly investigated. Recent studies have shed more light on this topic. Here, we give an overview on the long-term response, its physiological effects, possible mechanisms and its relationship to state transitions as well as to nonphotochemical quenching, another important short-term mechanism that mediates high-light acclimation. Special emphasis is given to the functional roles and potential interactions between the different light acclimation strategies. A working model displays the various responses as an integrated molecular system that helps plants to acclimate to the changing light environment.