Glycogen Metabolism Supports Photosynthesis Start through the Oxidative Pentose Phosphate Pathway in Cyanobacteria

Cyanobacteria experience drastic changes in their carbon metabolism under daily light/dark cycles. During the day, the Calvin-Benson cycle fixes CO2 and diverts excess carbon into glycogen storage. At night, glycogen is degraded to support cellular respiration. The dark/light transition represents a universal environmental stress for cyanobacteria and other photosynthetic lifeforms. Recent studies revealed the essential genetic background necessary for the fitness of cyanobacteria during diurnal growth. However, the metabolic processes underlying the dark/light transition are not well understood. In this study, we observed that glycogen metabolism supports photosynthesis in the cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus PCC 7942 when photosynthesis reactions start upon light exposure. Compared with the wild type, the glycogen mutant glgC showed a reduced photosynthetic efficiency and a slower P700+ rereduction rate when photosynthesis starts. Proteomic analyses indicated that glycogen is degraded through the oxidative pentose phosphate (OPP) pathway during the dark/light transition. We confirmed that the OPP pathway is essential for the initiation of photosynthesis and further showed that glycogen degradation through the OPP pathway contributes to the activation of key Calvin-Benson cycle enzymes by modulating NADPH levels. This strategy stimulates photosynthesis in cyanobacteria following dark respiration and stabilizes the Calvin-Benson cycle under fluctuating environmental conditions, thereby offering evolutionary advantages for photosynthetic organisms using the Calvin-Benson cycle for carbon fixation.

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