In all eukaryotes, protein phosphorylation is a key regulatory mechanism in several cellular processes, including the acclimation of photosynthesis to environmental cues. Despite being a well-conserved regulatory mechanism in the chloroplasts of land plants, distinct differences in thylakoid protein phosphorylation patterns have emerged from studies on species of different phylogenetic groups. Here, we analyzed thylakoid protein phosphorylation in the moss Physcomitrella patens, assessing the thylakoid phospho-protein profile and dynamics in response to changes in white light intensity. Compared with Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana), parallel characterization of wild-type P. patens and the knockout mutant stn8 (depleted in SER/THR PROTEIN KINASE8 [STN8]) disclosed a moss-specific pattern of thylakoid protein phosphorylation, both with respect to specific targets and to their dynamic phosphorylation in response to environmental cues. Unlike vascular plants, (1) phosphorylation of the PSII protein D1 in P. patens was negligible under all light conditions, (2) phosphorylation of the PSII core subunits CP43 and D2 showed only minor changes upon fluctuations in light intensity, and (3) absence of STN8 completely abolished all PSII core protein phosphorylation. Further, we detected light-induced phosphorylation in the minor light harvesting complex (LHC) antenna protein LHCB6, which was dependent on STN8 kinase activity, and found specific phosphorylations on LHCB3. Data presented here provide further insights into the appearance and physiological role of thylakoid protein phosphorylation during evolution of oxygenic photosynthetic organisms and their colonization of land.

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