Cyanobacteria possess specialized organelles, called phycobilisomes, which collect and transfer light energy to the reaction centres of photosystem II, in the photosynthetic membrane. Phycobilisomes consist of a central core, mainly composed of allophycocyanin, from which six rods radiate. We report here the isolation, for the first time, of three genes that encode core components of cyanobacterial phycobilisomes. The genes coding for the α-and β-subunit apoproteins of allophycocyanin (apcA and apcB) were cloned from Synechococcus PCC 6301 and subjected to nucleotide sequence analysis. Dowstream of apcB, we found a third open reading frame (apcC) which, by comparison with known amino acid sequences, was assigned to Lc7.8, a linker polypeptide associated with phycobiliproteins within the core of the phycobilisomes. Homologies between amino acid sequences deduced from the nucleotide sequence of the Synechococcus PCC 6301 apc genes and the amino acid sequences published for corresponding proteins either from cyanobacteria or chloroplast-like organelles of eukaryotic organisms, are 75% or more. The genetic organization of this photosynthetic gene cluster relative to that observed in the cyanelle genome of the flagellate Cyanophora paradoxa is discussed.
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