A new hypothesis for the regulation of dynamic thylakoid stacking by the stromal metabolism has been published in the Biochemical Journal.
The photosynthetic chloroplast thylakoid membrane of higher plants is a complex three-dimensional structure that is morphologically dynamic on a timescale of just a few minutes. The membrane dynamics are driven by the phosphorylation of light-harvesting complex II (LHCII) by the STN7 kinase, which controls the size of the stacked grana region relative to the unstacked stromal lamellae region. Here, I hypothesise that the functional significance of these membrane dynamics is in controlling the partition of electrons between photosynthetic linear and cyclic electron transfer (LET and CET), which determines the ratio of NADPH/ATP produced. The STN7 kinase responds to the metabolic state of the chloroplast by sensing the stromal redox state. A high NADPH/ATP ratio leads to reduction of thioredoxin f (TRXf), which reduces a CxxxC motif in the stromal domain of STN7 leading to its inactivation, whereas a low NADPH/ATP ratio leads to oxidation of TRXf and STN7 activation. Phosphorylation of LHCII leads to smaller grana, which favour LET by speeding up diffusion of electron carriers plastoquinone (PQ) and plastocyanin (PC) between the domains. In contrast, dephosphorylation of LHCII leads to larger grana that slow the diffusion of PQ and PC, leaving the PQ pool in the stroma more oxidised, thus enhancing the efficiency of CET. The feedback regulation of electron transfer by the downstream metabolism is crucial to plant fitness, since perturbations in the NADPH/ATP ratio can rapidly lead to the inhibition of photosynthesis and photo-oxidative stress.