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PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e42196. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0042196. Epub 2012 Aug 10.

Intragenic enhancers and suppressors of phytoene desaturase mutations in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.

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  • 1Physical Biosciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of California, Berkeley, California, United States of America.


Photosynthetic organisms synthesize carotenoids for harvesting light energy, photoprotection, and maintaining the structure and function of photosynthetic membranes. A light-sensitive, phytoene-accumulating mutant, pds1-1, was isolated in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and found to be genetically linked to the phytoene desaturase (PDS) gene. PDS catalyzes the second step in carotenoid biosynthesis--the conversion of phytoene to ζ-carotene. Decreased accumulation of downstream colored carotenoids suggested that the pds1-1 mutant is leaky for PDS activity. A screen for enhancers of the pds1-1 mutation yielded the pds1-2 allele, which completely lacks PDS activity. A second independent null mutant (pds1-3) was identified using DNA insertional mutagenesis. Both null mutants accumulate only phytoene and no other carotenoids. All three phytoene-accumulating mutants exhibited slower growth rates and reduced plating efficiency compared to wild-type cells and white phytoene synthase mutants. Insight into amino acid residues important for PDS activity was obtained through the characterization of intragenic suppressors of pds1-2. The suppressor mutants fell into three classes: revertants of the pds1-1 point mutation, mutations that changed PDS amino acid residue Pro64 to Phe, and mutations that converted PDS residue Lys90 to Met. Characterization of pds1-2 intragenic suppressors coupled with computational structure prediction of PDS suggest that amino acids at positions 90 and 143 are in close contact in the active PDS enzyme and have important roles in its structural stability and/or activity.

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