Deletion of the cytochrome bc complex from Heliobacterium modesticaldum results in viable but non-phototrophic cells

Sabrina W. Leung, Patricia L. Baker, Kevin E. Redding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The heliobacteria, a family of anoxygenic phototrophs, possess the simplest known photosynthetic apparatus. Although they are photoheterotrophs in the light, the heliobacteria can also grow chemotrophically via pyruvate metabolism in the dark. In the heliobacteria, the cytochrome bc complex is responsible for oxidizing menaquinol and reducing cytochrome c553 in the electron flow cycle used for phototrophy. However, there is no known electron acceptor for the mobile cytochrome c553 other than the photochemical reaction center. We have, therefore, hypothesized that the cytochrome bc complex is necessary for phototrophy, but unnecessary for chemotrophic growth in the dark. We used a two-step method for CRISPR-based genome editing in Heliobacterium modesticaldum to delete the genes encoding the four major subunits of the cytochrome bc complex. Genotypic analysis verified the deletion of the petCBDA gene cluster encoding the catalytic components of the complex. Spectroscopic studies revealed that re-reduction of cytochrome c553 after flash-induced photo-oxidation was over 100 times slower in the ∆petCBDA mutant compared to the wild-type. Steady-state levels of oxidized P800 (the primary donor of the photochemical reaction center) were much higher in the ∆petCBDA mutant at every light level, consistent with a limitation in electron flow to the reaction center. The ∆petCBDA mutant was unable to grow phototrophically on acetate plus CO2 but could grow chemotrophically on pyruvate as a carbon source similar to the wild-type strain in the dark. The mutants could be complemented by reintroduction of the petCBDA gene cluster on a plasmid expressed from the clostridial eno promoter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-152
Number of pages16
JournalPhotosynthesis research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Anoxygenic photosynthesis
  • Complex III
  • Cytochrome bc complex
  • Heliobacteria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology


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