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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012 Jan;1817(1):182-93. doi: 10.1016/j.bbabio.2011.04.012. Epub 2011 May 1.

The role of the xanthophyll cycle and of lutein in photoprotection of photosystem II.

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Plant Biochemistry, Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, Universitätsstr.1, D-40225 Düsseldorf, Germany.


Photoprotection of photosystem II (PSII) is essential to avoid the light-induced damage of the photosynthetic apparatus due to the formation of reactive oxygen species (=photo-oxidative stress) under excess light. Carotenoids are known to play a crucial role in these processes based on their property to deactivate triplet chlorophyll (³Chl*) and singlet oxygen (¹O₂*). Xanthophylls are further assumed to be involved either directly or indirectly in the non-photochemical quenching (NPQ) of excess light energy in the antenna of PSII. This review gives an overview on recent progress in the understanding of the photoprotective role of the xanthophylls zeaxanthin (which is formed in the light in the so-called xanthophyll cycle) and lutein with emphasis on the NPQ processes associated with PSII of higher plants. The current knowledge supports the view that the photoprotective role of Lut is predominantly restricted to its function in the deactivation of ³Chl*, while zeaxanthin is the major player in the deactivation of excited singlet Chl (¹Chl*) and thus in NPQ (non-photochemical quenching). Additionally, zeaxanthin serves important functions as an antioxidant in the lipid phase of the membrane and is likely to act as a key component in the memory of the chloroplast with respect to preceding photo-oxidative stress. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Photosystem II.

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