The engagement of different photoprotective mechanisms in the cells of the carotenogenic astaxanthin-accumulating chlorophyte Haematococcus pluvialis (i) under favorable conditions, (ii) in the course of stress-induced haematocyst formation and (iii) during recovery from the stress was studied. To this end, we followed the changes in primary photochemistry, electron flow at the acceptor side of photosystem II, and non-photochemical quenching (NPQ) using PAM chlorophyll fluorimetry. A general trend recorded in the stressed cells undergoing transition to haematocysts (and reversed during recovery from the stress) was a gradual reduction of the photosynthetic apparatus accompanied by down-regulation of energy-dependent photoprotective mechanisms such as NPQ, along with the accumulation of astaxanthin. On this background, a transient up-regulation of the photosynthetic activity was detected at the intermediated stages (20–50 h of the stress exposure) of haematocyst formation. This phenomenon was tentatively related with the peak of metabolic activity found earlier in the forming haematocysts. The role of secondary carotenogenesis coupled with a reversible transition from ‘active’ (energy-dependent) to ‘passive’ photoprotective mechanisms in the extremely high stress tolerance of carotenogenic phototrophs is discussed.
- Non-photochemical quenching