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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1991 Jul 1; 88(13): 5789–5793.

In vitro assay of the chlorophyll biosynthetic enzyme Mg-chelatase: resolution of the activity into soluble and membrane-bound fractions.


The first committed step in chlorophyll synthesis is the Mg-chelatase-catalyzed insertion of magnesium into protoporphyrin IX. Since iron insertion into protoporphyrin leads to heme formation, Mg-chelastase lies at the branch point of heme and chlorophyll synthesis in chloroplasts. Little is known about the enzymology or regulation of Mg-chelatase, as it has been assayed only in intact cucumber chloroplasts. In this report we describe an in vitro assay for Mg-chelatase. Mg-chelatase activity in intact pea chloroplasts was 3- to 4-fold higher than in cucumber chloroplasts. This activity survived chloroplast lysis and could be fractionated by centrifugation into supernatant and pellet components. Both of these fractions were required to reconstitute Mg-chelatase activity, and both were inactivated by boiling indicating that the enzyme is composed of soluble and membrane-bound protein(s). The product of the reaction was confirmed fluorometrically as the magnesium chelate of the porphyrin substrate. The specific activity of the reconstituted system was typically 1 nmol of Mg-deuteroporphyrin per h per mg of protein, and activity was linear for at least 60 min under our assay conditions. ATP and magnesium were required for Mg-chelatase activity and the enzyme was sensitive to the sulfhydryl reagent N-ethylmaleimide (I50, 20 microM). Broken and reconstituted cucumber chloroplasts were unable to maintain Mg-chelatase activity. However, the cucumber supernatant fraction was active when combined with the pellet fraction of peas; the converse was not true, which suggested that the cucumber pellet was the component that lost activity during lysis.

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