Sulfoquinovosyl diacylglycerol (SQDG) is involved in the maintenance of photosystem II (PSII) activity in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii[Minoda, A., Sato, N., Nozaki, H., Okada, K., Takahashi, H., Sonoike, K. & Tsuzuki, M. et al. (2002) Eur. J. Biochem.269, 2353-2358]. To understand the spread of the taxa in which PSII interacts with SQDG, especially in cyanobacteria, we produced a mutant defective in the putative sqdB gene responsible for SQDG synthesis from two cyanobacteria, Synechocystis sp. PCC6803 and Synechococcus sp. PCC7942. The mutant of PCC6803, designated SD1, lacked SQDG synthetic ability and required SQDG supplementation for its growth. After transfer from SQDG-supplemented to SQDG-free conditions, SD1 showed decreased net photosynthetic and PSII activities on a chlorophyll (Chl) basis with a decrease in the SQDG content. Moreover, the sensitivity of PSII activity to 3-(3,4-dichlorophenyl)-1,1-dimethylurea and atrazine was increased in SD1. However, SD1 maintained normal amounts of cytochrome b559 and D1 protein (the subunits comprising the PSII complex) on a Chl basis, indicating that the PSII complex content changed little, irrespective of a decrease in the SQDG content. These results suggest that the role of SQDG is the conservation of the PSII properties in PCC6803, consistent with the results obtained with C. reinhardtii. In contrast, the SQDG-null mutant of PCC7942 showed the normal level of PSII activity with little effect on its sensitivity to PSII herbicides. Therefore, the difference in the SQDG requirement for PSII is species-specific in cyanobacteria; this could be of use when investigating the molecular evolution of the PSII complex.