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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Sep 26;97(20):11098-101.

Protection and storage of chlorophyll in overwintering evergreens.

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  • 1Photobioenergetics Group and Ecosystem Dynamics Group, Research School of Biological Sciences, Institute of Advanced Studies, Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia.


How evergreen species store and protect chlorophyll during exposure to high light in winter remains unexplained. This study reveals that the evergreen snow gum (Eucalyptus pauciflora Sieb. ex Spreng.) stores and protects its chlorophylls by forming special complexes that are unique to the winter-acclimated state. Our in vivo spectral and kinetic characterizations reveal a prominent component of the chlorophyll fluorescence spectrum around 715 nm at 77 K. This band coincides structurally with a loss of chlorophyll and an increase in energy-dissipating carotenoids. Functionally, the band coincides with an increased capacity to dissipate excess light energy, absorbed by the chlorophylls, as heat without intrathylakoid acidification. The increased heat dissipation helps protect the chlorophylls from photo-oxidative bleaching and thereby facilitates rapid recovery of photosynthesis in spring.

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