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Photosynth Res. 2012 Sep;113(1-3):89-103. doi: 10.1007/s11120-012-9760-7. Epub 2012 Jul 8.

Thermal energy dissipation and xanthophyll cycles beyond the Arabidopsis model.

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Department of Plant Biology and Ecology, University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), Apdo 644, 48080, Bilbao, Spain.


Thermal dissipation of excitation energy is a fundamental photoprotection mechanism in plants. Thermal energy dissipation is frequently estimated using the quenching of the chlorophyll fluorescence signal, termed non-photochemical quenching. Over the last two decades, great progress has been made in the understanding of the mechanism of thermal energy dissipation through the use of a few model plants, mainly Arabidopsis. Nonetheless, an emerging number of studies suggest that this model represents only one strategy among several different solutions for the environmental adjustment of thermal energy dissipation that have evolved among photosynthetic organisms in the course of evolution. In this review, a detailed analysis of three examples highlights the need to use models other than Arabidopsis: first, overwintering evergreens that develop a sustained form of thermal energy dissipation; second, desiccation tolerant plants that induce rapid thermal energy dissipation; and third, understorey plants in which a complementary lutein epoxide cycle modulates thermal energy dissipation. The three examples have in common a shift from a photosynthetically efficient state to a dissipative conformation, a strategy widely distributed among stress-tolerant evergreen perennials. Likewise, they show a distinct operation of the xanthophyll cycle. Expanding the list of model species beyond Arabidopsis will enhance our knowledge of these mechanisms and increase the synergy of the current studies now dispersed over a wide number of species.

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