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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Jul 3, 1995; 92(14): 6219–6223.

Unsaturation of the membrane lipids of chloroplasts stabilizes the photosynthetic machinery against low-temperature photoinhibition in transgenic tobacco plants.


Using tobacco plants that had been transformed with the cDNA for glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase, we have demonstrated that chilling tolerance is affected by the levels of unsaturated membrane lipids. In the present study, we examined the effects of the transformation of tobacco plants with cDNA for glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase from squash on the unsaturation of fatty acids in thylakoid membrane lipids and the response of photosynthesis to various temperatures. Of the four major lipid classes isolated from the thylakoid membranes, phosphatidylglycerol showed the most conspicuous decrease in the level of unsaturation in the transformed plants. The isolated thylakoid membranes from wild-type and transgenic plants did not significantly differ from each other in terms of the sensitivity of photosystem II to high and low temperatures and also to photoinhibition. However, leaves of the transformed plants were more sensitive to photoinhibition than those of wild-type plants. Moreover, the recovery of photosynthesis from photoinhibition in leaves of wild-type plants was faster than that in leaves of the transgenic tobacco plants. These results suggest that unsaturation of fatty acids of phosphatidylglycerol in thylakoid membranes stabilizes the photosynthetic machinery against low-temperature photoinhibition by accelerating the recovery of the photosystem II protein complex.

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