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Plant Cell. 2013 Feb;25(2):591-608. doi: 10.1105/tpc.112.108621. Epub 2013 Feb 8.

The Arabidopsis nox mutant lacking carotene hydroxylase activity reveals a critical role for xanthophylls in photosystem I biogenesis.

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Dipartimento di Biotecnologie, Università di Verona, 37134 Verona, Italy.


Carotenes, and their oxygenated derivatives xanthophylls, are essential components of the photosynthetic apparatus. They contribute to the assembly of photosynthetic complexes and participate in light absorption and chloroplast photoprotection. Here, we studied the role of xanthophylls, as distinct from that of carotenes, by characterizing a no xanthophylls (nox) mutant of Arabidopsis thaliana, which was obtained by combining mutations targeting the four carotenoid hydroxylase genes. nox plants retained α- and β-carotenes but were devoid in xanthophylls. The phenotype included depletion of light-harvesting complex (LHC) subunits and impairment of nonphotochemical quenching, two effects consistent with the location of xanthophylls in photosystem II antenna, but also a decreased efficiency of photosynthetic electron transfer, photosensitivity, and lethality in soil. Biochemical analysis revealed that the nox mutant was specifically depleted in photosystem I function due to a severe deficiency in PsaA/B subunits. While the stationary level of psaA/B transcripts showed no major differences between genotypes, the stability of newly synthesized PsaA/B proteins was decreased and translation of psaA/B mRNA was impaired in nox with respect to wild-type plants. We conclude that xanthophylls, besides their role in photoprotection and LHC assembly, are also needed for photosystem I core translation and stability, thus making these compounds indispensable for autotrophic growth.

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