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Yuxi NiuDušan LazárAlfred R. HolzwarthDavid M. KramerShizue MatsubaraFabio FioraniHendrik PoorterSilvia D. SchreyLadislav Nedbal ✉️

In natural environments, plants are exposed to rapidly changing light. Maintaining photosynthetic efficiency while avoiding photodamage requires equally rapid regulation of photoprotective mechanisms. We asked what the operation frequency range of regulation is in which plants can efficiently respond to varying light.


Chlorophyll fluorescence, P700, plastocyanin, and ferredoxin responses of wild-types Arabidopsis thaliana were measured in oscillating light of various frequencies. We also investigated the npq1 mutant lacking violaxanthin de-epoxidase, the npq4 mutant lacking PsbS protein, and the mutants crr2-2, and pgrl1ab impaired in different pathways of the cyclic electron transport.


The fastest was the PsbS-regulation responding to oscillation periods longer than 10 s. Processes involving violaxanthin de-epoxidase dampened changes in chlorophyll fluorescence in oscillation periods of 2 min or longer. Knocking out the PGR5/PGRL1 pathway strongly reduced variations of all monitored parameters, probably due to congestion in the electron transport. Incapacitating the NDH-like pathway only slightly changed the photosynthetic dynamics.


Our observations are consistent with the hypothesis that nonphotochemical quenching in slow light oscillations involves violaxanthin de-epoxidase to produce, presumably, a largely stationary level of zeaxanthin. We interpret the observed dynamics of photosystem I components as being formed in slow light oscillations partially by thylakoid remodeling that modulates the redox rates.

ChemPhysChem |
Published: 17 August 2022

We introduce HIGHLIGHT as a simple and general strategy to selectively image a reversibly photoactivatable fluorescent label associated with a given kinetics. The label is submitted to sine-wave illumination of large amplitude, which generates oscillations of its concentration and fluorescence at higher harmonic frequencies. For singularizing a label, HIGHLIGHT uses specific frequencies and mean light intensities associated with resonances of the amplitudes of concentration and fluorescence oscillations at harmonic frequencies. Several non-redundant resonant observables are simultaneously retrieved from a single experiment with phase-sensitive detection. HIGHLIGHT is used for selective imaging of four spectrally similar fluorescent proteins that had not been discriminated so far. Moreover, labels out of targeted locations can be discarded in an inhomogeneous spatial profile of illumination. HIGHLIGHT opens roads for simplified optical setups at reduced cost and easier maintenance.

Preparatory research

Titration without separation, e.g. quantification of a target species in living cells, is a challenge of analytical chemistry. We perform the selective detection of a target using the kinetics involved in a photochemical process and develop a correlation method that we illustrate by the titration of a fluorescent photoswitcher and the target of a photoswitching sensor. Correlating an input time series and a well-chosen weighting function associated with a variable characteristic time yields a spectrum of characteristic times. The upper integration limit of the correlation output can be chosen to match the argument of an extremum of the spectrum with a characteristic time of the input time series in order to quantify the target. A similar procedure is followed to optimize the signal-to-noise ratio. Selectivity and signal-to-noise ratio associated with 15 weighting functions are theoretically predicted. The results are applied to the titration of the reversibly photoswitchable fluorescent protein Dronpa-2 and the titration of calcium using a reversibly photoswitchable fluorescent sensor. The performance of the correlation method is favorably compared to the one of other dynamic contrast protocols.

Plants growing in nature often experience fluctuating irradiance. However, in the laboratory, the dynamics of photosynthesis are usually explored by instantaneously exposing dark-adapted plants to constant light and examining the dark-to-light transition, which is a poor approximation of natural phenomena. With the aim creating a better approximation, we exposed leaves of pea (Pisum sativum) to oscillating light and measured changes in the functioning of PSI and PSII, and of the proton motive force at the thylakoid membrane. We found that the dynamics depended on the oscillation period, revealing information about the underlying regulatory networks. As demonstrated for a selected oscillation period of 60 s, the regulation tries to keep the reaction centers of PSI and PSII open. We present an evaluation of the data obtained, and discuss the involvement of particular processes in the regulation of photosynthesis. The forced oscillations provided an information-rich fingerprint of complex regulatory networks. We expect future progress in understanding these networks from experiments involving chemical interventions and plant mutants, and by using mathematical modeling and systems identification and control tools.

Due to its sensitivity and versatility, fluorescence is widely used to detect specifically labeled biomolecules. However, fluorescence is currently limited by label discrimination, which suffers from the broad full width of the absorption/emission bands and the narrow lifetime distribution of the bright fluorophores. We overcome this limitation by introducing extra kinetic dimensions through illuminations of reversibly photoswitchable fluorophores (RSFs) at different light intensities. In this expanded space, each RSF is characterized by a chromatic aberration-free kinetic fingerprint of photochemical reactivity, which can be recovered with limited hardware, excellent photon budget, and minimal data processing. This fingerprint was used to identify and discriminate up to 20 among 22 spectrally similar reversibly photoswitchable fluorescent proteins (RSFPs) in less than 1s. This strategy opens promising perspectives for expanding the multiplexing capabilities of fluorescence imaging.