Biochemistry Online: An Approach Based on Chemical Logic

Biochemistry Online





Learning Goals/Objectives for Chapter 8D: 

After class and this reading, students will be able to

  • described the mechanistic similarities between mitochondrial oxidative/phosophorylation in which NADH and FADH2 are regenerated on reduction of O2 and the light reaction of photosynthesis in which O2 and a reducing agent, NADPH are produced;
  • describe similarities in fluorescence resonance energy transfer and exciton transfer;
  • describe the difference in properties between chlorophylls acting as antennae and chlorophylls at the reaction center;
  • describe how sunlight driven excitation of chlorophyll molecules at the reaction center produces an oxidzing agent strong enough to oxide water and form O2, itself a powerful oxidizing agent;
  • explain the general flow of electrons from dioxgen to NADP+ through a series of mobile and membrane protein bound electron carriers in the Z scheme of electron transport in the chloroplast thylacoid membranes;
  • explain with picture diagrams how oxidation of H2O and phosphorylation reactions (to produce ATP) are coupled in in the Z scheme;

D8.  Plant Protection

Plants have evolved a great ability to absorb light over the entire visible range of the spectra.  Can they absorb to much energy?  The answer is yes, so plants have developed many ways to protect themselves. IF too much light is absorbed, the pH gradient developed across the thylacoid membranes becomes greater.  This is sensed by a protein, PsbS, and through subsequent conformational changes transmitted through the light-harvesting antennae, the excess light energy is dissipated as thermal energy.  Mutants lacking PsbS showed decreased seed yield, a sign that it became less adaptable under conditions of stress (such as exposure to rapidly fluctuating light levels).  Molecules called xanthophylls (synthesized from carotenes - vit A precursors) such as zeaxanthin are also important in excess energy dissipation.  These molecules appear to cause excited state chlorophyll (a singlet like excited state dioxygen) to become deexcited.  Without the xanthophylls, the excited state chlorophyll could deexcite by transfer of energy to ground state triplet dioxygen, promoting it to the singlet, reactive state, which through electron acquisition, could also be converted to superoxide.  These reactive oxygen species (ROS) can lead to oxidative damage to proteins, lipids and nucleic acids, alteration in gene transcription, and even programmed cell death.  Carotenoids can also acts as ROS scavengers.  Hence both heat dissipation and inhibition of formation of ROS (by such molecules as vitamin E) are both mechanism of defense of excessive solar energy

Given that both plants and animals must be protected from ROS, antioxidant molecules made by plants may prove to protect humans from diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and general inflammatory diseases, all of which have been shown to involve oxidative damage to biological molecules.  Humans, who can't synthesize the variety and amounts of antioxidants that are found in plants, appear to be healther when they consume large amounts of plant products.  These phytomolecule also have other properties, including regulation of gene transcription which can also have a significant effect on disease propensity.


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Archived version of full Chapter 8D:  The LIght Reaction of Photosynthesis


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