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J Cell Biol. 2000 Apr 17;149(2):369-78.

A small chloroplast-encoded protein as a novel architectural component of the light-harvesting antenna.

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  • 1Institut für Biologie III, Universität Freiburg, D-79104 Freiburg, Germany.


A small conserved open reading frame in the plastid genome, ycf9, encodes a putative membrane protein of 62 amino acids. To determine the function of this reading frame we have constructed a knockout allele for targeted disruption of ycf9. This allele was introduced into the tobacco plastid genome by biolistic transformation to replace the wild-type ycf9 allele. Homoplasmic ycf9 knockout plants displayed no phenotype under normal growth conditions. However, under low light conditions, their growth rate was significantly reduced as compared with the wild-type, due to a lowered efficiency of the light reaction of photosynthesis. We show that this phenotype is caused by the deficiency in a pigment-protein complex of the light-harvesting antenna of photosystem II and hence by a reduced efficiency of photon capture when light availability is limiting. Our results indicate that, in contrast to the current view, light-harvesting complexes do not only consist of the classical pigment-binding proteins, but may contain small structural subunits in addition. These subunits appear to be crucial architectural factors for the assembly and/or maintenance of stable light-harvesting complexes.

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