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J Biol Chem. 1990 Jan 15;265(2):808-14.

Comparisons of rbcL genes for the large subunit of ribulose-bisphosphate carboxylase from closely related C3 and C4 plant species.

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  • 1Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization Division of Plant Industry, Canberra, Australia.


Ribulosebisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase from C4 plants exhibits higher turnover rates and lower affinities for CO2 than the enzyme from C3 plants or C3-C4 intermediate species. This property is shown to be inherited maternally in reciprocal interspecific crosses between two Flaveria species, and thus must be specified by the chloroplast-encoded large subunits. To investigate the amino acid changes responsible, the chloroplast rbcL genes from three pairs of C3 and C4 species from three genera (Flaveria, Atriplex, and Neurachne) were cloned and sequenced. Comparisons of the predicted amino acid sequences from species of the same genus revealed a limited number of changes within each pair, ranging from three to six, of which only one (309Met (C3) to Ile (C4] was consistently observed. This residue occurs in the loop connecting the carboxyl end of beta strand 5 with the amino end of alpha helix 5 in the alpha/beta barrel of the large subunit, and is close to the active site in a region which makes interdomain and intersubunit contacts. However, it is unlikely that a change of this residue alone is responsible for the alteration of kinetic properties. Nucleotide sequence comparisons of the rbcL genes showed no significant or consistent changes in the promoter and transcribed but nontranslated regions to suggest why rbcL is not expressed in C4 leaf mesophyll cells. It is concluded that mutations in rbcL have led to an alteration of the kinetics but not the expression of ribulose-bisphosphate carboxylase.

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