A pigment-binding protein essential for regulation of photosynthetic light harvesting

X P LiK K Niyogi


Photosynthetic light harvesting in plants is regulated in response to changes in incident light intensity. Absorption of light that exceeds a plant's capacity for fixation of CO2 results in thermal dissipation of excitation energy in the pigment antenna of photosystem II by a poorly understood mechanism. This regulatory process, termed nonphotochemical quenching, maintains the balance between dissipation and utilization of light energy to minimize generation of oxidizing molecules, thereby protecting the plant against photo-oxidative damage. To identify specific proteins that are involved in nonphotochemical quenching, we have isolated mutants of Arabidopsis thaliana that cannot dissipate excess absorbed light energy. Here we show that the gene encoding PsbS, an intrinsic chlorophyll-binding protein of photosystem II, is necessary for nonphotochemical quenching but not for efficient light harvesting and photosynthesis. These results indicate that PsbS may be the site for nonphotochemical quenching, a finding that has implications for the functional evolution of pigment-binding proteins.


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