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Biochimica et biophysica acta

Flexibility in photosynthetic electron transport: the physiological role of plastoquinol terminal oxidase (PTOX).


PMID 21056542

Abstract

Oxygenic photosynthesis depends on a highly conserved electron transport system, which must be particularly dynamic in its response to environmental and physiological changes, in order to avoid an excess of excitation energy and subsequent oxidative damage. Apart from cyclic electron flow around PSII and around PSI, several alternative electron transport pathways exist including a plastoquinol terminal oxidase (PTOX) that mediates electron flow from plastoquinol to O(2). The existence of PTOX was first hypothesized in 1982 and this was verified years later based on the discovery of a non-heme, di-iron carboxylate protein localized to thylakoid membranes that displayed sequence similarity to the mitochondrial alternative oxidase. The absence of this protein renders higher plants susceptible to excitation pressure dependant variegation combined with impaired carotenoid synthesis. Chloroplasts, as well as other plastids (i.e. etioplasts, amyloplasts and chromoplasts), fail to assemble organized internal membrane structures correctly, when exposed to high excitation pressure early in development. While the role of PTOX in plastid development is established, its physiological role under stress conditions remains equivocal and we postulate that it serves as an alternative electron sink under conditions where the acceptor side of PSI is limited. The aim of this review is to provide an overview of the past achievements in this field and to offer directions for future investigative efforts. Plastoquinol terminal oxidase (PTOX) is involved in an alternative electron transport pathway that mediates electron flow from plastoquinol to O(2). This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Regulation of Electron Transport in Chloroplasts.

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