During photosynthesis sunlight is absorbed by photosynthetic pigments and converted into organic compounds, such as carbohydrates. Photosynthesis needs to be highly regulated, since both too much and too little light are harmful to plant. If too little light is absorbed, a plant cannot store enough energy, which will have effects on growth and fitness of the plant. With too much light absorbed, a dangerous side reaction of photosynthesis, the production of reactive oxygen species can happen. These reactive oxygen species can damage the proteins in the chloroplast and the lipids of the chloroplast.
To avoid the production of reactive oxygen species, plants have evolved many mechanisms, which act on different time-scales and different levels of organization. As a first measure, when the absorbed light is exceeding the capacity for its utilization, is to switch the light-harvesting antenna from efficient light harvesting to energy dissipation. This process is called feedback de-excitation (FDE). The protein PsbS is essential for this process as well as a functioning xanthophylls cycle with the enzyme violaxanthin de-epoxidase (VDE).
I have investigated the effects of plants with changes in their ability to dissipate excess excitation energy in the model plants species Arabidopsis thaliana. Three genotypes with either increased or decreased capacity for FDE were used during my experiments. The first genotype over-expresses the PsbS gene, having approximately two-fold increased amounts of PsbS and FDE. The second is a PsbS deletion mutant with no PsbS protein and no FDE. The third genotype cannot perform the conversion of violaxanthin to zeaxanthin, because the enzyme VDE is missing. This mutant has some FDE left.
Arabidopsis thaliana is an annual plant, which flowers only once in its lifetime. Therefore, when counting the seeds produced an estimation of fitness can be made from the amount of seeds produced. This was done during my experiments and shown that FDE is a trait and that plants with increased FDE have a higher fitness and vice versa.
This was also the case for a collection of plants lacking a single protein from the light harvesting antenna. All of these genotypes had a fitness reduction, proving that their function is not redundant.
In an attempt to explain why the fitness is reduced in plants with altered FDE, photosynthetic measurements, as well as a determination of the transcriptome and the metabolome was performed. Plants lacking FDE had higher levels of photoinhibition, leading both to lower rates of photosynthesis and to higher repair cost. This could in part explain the reduction in fitness. These plants also had major changes in their transcriptome and their metabolome. Primary metabolism was most effected, for example carbohydrate and amino acid metabolism. But there were also changes in secondary metabolism such as an up regulation of the biosynthesis of anthocyanins.
Umeå: Fysiologisk botanik , 2005. , 59 p.
Arabidopsis thaliana, photosynthesis, feedback de-excitation, fitness, metabolomics, transcriptomics