Along with the development of several large-scale methods such as mass spectrometry or micro arrays, genome wide models became not only a possibility but an obvious tool for theoretical biologists to integrate and analyse complex biological data. Nevertheless, incorporating the dynamics of photosynthesis remains one of the major challenges while reconstructing metabolic networks of plants and other photosynthetic organisms. In this review, we aim to provide arguments that small-scale models are still a suitable choice when it comes to discovering organisational principles governing the design of biological systems. We give a brief overview of recent modelling efforts in understanding the interplay between rapid, photoprotective mechanisms and the redox balance within the thylakoid membrane, discussing the applicability of a reductionist approach in modelling self-regulation in plants and outline possible directions for further research.

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