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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Apr 1, 1991; 88(7): 2883–2887.

The role of phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase in a marine macroalga with C4-like photosynthetic characteristics.


Udotea flabellum is a marine, macroscopic green alga with C4-like photosynthetic characteristics, including little O2 inhibition of photosynthesis, a low CO2 compensation point, and minimal photorespiration; but it lacks anatomical features analogous to the Kranz compartmentation of C4 plants, and phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase [PEPC; orthophosphate:oxaloacetate carboxy-lyase (phosphorylating), EC] activity is negligible. Phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK) activity (carboxylating) in Udotea extracts was equivalent to that of ribulose-bisphosphate carboxylase [Rubisco; 3-phospho-D-glycerate carboxy-lyase (dimerizing), EC]. When PEPCK activity was inhibited in vivo with 3-mercaptopicolinic acid (MPA), thallus photosynthesis decreased by 70% and became sensitive to O2. Codium decorticatum, a related species that lacks C4-like photosynthetic features and PEPCK activity, showed no increase in O2 inhibition upon exposure to MPA. Rubisco and PEPC activities in Udotea were not inhibited by MPA. Labeling of the early photosynthetic products malate and aspartate was reduced 66% by MPA, while intermediates of the photorespiratory carbon oxidation cycle showed a 3-fold increase. Udotea evolved O2 in the light in the absence of inorganic carbon, suggesting it had an endogenous carbon source for photosynthesis. Exogenous malate stimulated this process, while MPA inhibited it. PEPCK was not involved in Crassulacean acid metabolism or dark CO2 fixation. These MPA studies establish a direct link between PEPCK activity and the low O2 inhibition of photosynthesis and low photorespiration in Udotea. The data are consistent with carboxylation by a cytosolic PEPCK providing a C4 acid, such as malate, to the chloroplast for decarboxylation to elevate the CO2 concentration at the Rubisco fixation site. Udotea is to date the most primitive plant with a C4-like form of photosynthesis.

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