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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Nov 12;99(23):15222-7. Epub 2002 Nov 4.

PsbS-dependent enhancement of feedback de-excitation protects photosystem II from photoinhibition.

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Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of California, Berkeley 94720-3102, USA.


Feedback de-excitation (qE) regulates light harvesting in plants to prevent inhibition of photosynthesis when light absorption exceeds photosynthetic capacity. Although the mechanism of qE is not completely understood, it is known to require a low thylakoid lumen pH, de-epoxidized xanthophylls, and the photosystem II protein PsbS. During a short-term 4-h exposure to excess light, three PsbS- and qE-deficient Arabidopsis thaliana mutants that differed in xanthophyll composition were more photoinhibited than the wild type. The extent of photoinhibition was the same in all of the mutants, suggesting that qE capacity rather than xanthophyll composition is critical for photoprotection in short-term high light, in contrast to longer-term high light conditions (days) when additional antioxidant roles of specific xanthophylls are evident. Plants with a 2-fold increase in qE capacity were generated by overexpression of PsbS, demonstrating that the level of PsbS limits the qE capacity in wild-type Arabidopsis. These results are consistent with the idea that variations in PsbS expression are responsible for species-specific and environmentally induced differences in qE capacity observed in nature. Furthermore, plants with higher qE capacity were more resistant to photoinhibition than the wild type. Increased qE was associated with decreased photosystem II excitation pressure and changes in the fractional areas of chlorophyll a fluorescence lifetime distributions, but not the lifetime centers, suggesting that qE protects from photoinhibition by preventing overreduction of photosystem II electron acceptors. Engineering of qE capacity by PsbS overexpression could potentially yield crop plants that are more resistant to environmental stress.

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