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1.  A quadruple mutant of Arabidopsis reveals a β-carotene hydroxylation activity for LUT1/CYP97C1 and a regulatory role of xanthophylls on determination of the PSI/PSII ratio 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:50.
Xanthophylls are oxygenated carotenoids playing an essential role as structural components of the photosynthetic apparatus. Xanthophylls contribute to the assembly and stability of light-harvesting complex, to light absorbance and to photoprotection. The first step in xanthophyll biosynthesis from α- and β-carotene is the hydroxylation of ε- and β-rings, performed by both non-heme iron oxygenases (CHY1, CHY2) and P450 cytochromes (LUT1/CYP97C1, LUT5/CYP97A3). The Arabidopsis triple chy1chy2lut5 mutant is almost completely depleted in β-xanthophylls.
Here we report on the quadruple chy1chy2lut2lut5 mutant, additionally carrying the lut2 mutation (affecting lycopene ε-cyclase). This genotype lacks lutein and yet it shows a compensatory increase in β-xanthophylls with respect to chy1chy2lut5 mutant. Mutant plants show an even stronger photosensitivity than chy1chy2lut5, a complete lack of qE, the rapidly reversible component of non-photochemical quenching, and a peculiar organization of the pigment binding complexes into thylakoids. Biochemical analysis reveals that the chy1chy2lut2lut5 mutant is depleted in Lhcb subunits and is specifically affected in Photosystem I function, showing a deficiency in PSI-LHCI supercomplexes. Moreover, by analyzing a series of single, double, triple and quadruple Arabidopsis mutants in xanthophyll biosynthesis, we show a hitherto undescribed correlation between xanthophyll levels and the PSI-PSII ratio. The decrease in the xanthophyll/carotenoid ratio causes a proportional decrease in the LHCII and PSI core levels with respect to PSII.
The physiological and biochemical phenotype of the chy1chy2lut2lut5 mutant shows that (i) LUT1/CYP97C1 protein reveals a major β-carotene hydroxylase activity in vivo when depleted in its preferred substrate α-carotene; (ii) xanthophylls are needed for normal level of Photosystem I and LHCII accumulation.
PMCID: PMC3349566  PMID: 22513258
2.  Reactive oxygen species and transcript analysis upon excess light treatment in wild-type Arabidopsis thaliana vs a photosensitive mutant lacking zeaxanthin and lutein 
BMC Plant Biology  2011;11:62.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are unavoidable by-products of oxygenic photosynthesis, causing progressive oxidative damage and ultimately cell death. Despite their destructive activity they are also signalling molecules, priming the acclimatory response to stress stimuli.
To investigate this role further, we exposed wild type Arabidopsis thaliana plants and the double mutant npq1lut2 to excess light. The mutant does not produce the xanthophylls lutein and zeaxanthin, whose key roles include ROS scavenging and prevention of ROS synthesis. Biochemical analysis revealed that singlet oxygen (1O2) accumulated to higher levels in the mutant while other ROS were unaffected, allowing to define the transcriptomic signature of the acclimatory response mediated by 1O2 which is enhanced by the lack of these xanthophylls species. The group of genes differentially regulated in npq1lut2 is enriched in sequences encoding chloroplast proteins involved in cell protection against the damaging effect of ROS. Among the early fine-tuned components, are proteins involved in tetrapyrrole biosynthesis, chlorophyll catabolism, protein import, folding and turnover, synthesis and membrane insertion of photosynthetic subunits. Up to now, the flu mutant was the only biological system adopted to define the regulation of gene expression by 1O2. In this work, we propose the use of mutants accumulating 1O2 by mechanisms different from those activated in flu to better identify ROS signalling.
We propose that the lack of zeaxanthin and lutein leads to 1O2 accumulation and this represents a signalling pathway in the early stages of stress acclimation, beside the response to ADP/ATP ratio and to the redox state of both plastoquinone pool. Chloroplasts respond to 1O2 accumulation by undergoing a significant change in composition and function towards a fast acclimatory response. The physiological implications of this signalling specificity are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3083342  PMID: 21481232
3.  Improper excess light energy dissipation in Arabidopsis results in a metabolic reprogramming 
BMC Plant Biology  2009;9:12.
Plant performance is affected by the level of expression of PsbS, a key photoprotective protein involved in the process of feedback de-excitation (FDE), or the qE component of non-photochemical quenching, NPQ.
In studies presented here, under constant laboratory conditions the metabolite profiles of leaves of wild-type Arabidopsis thaliana and plants lacking or overexpressing PsbS were very similar, but under natural conditions their differences in levels of PsbS expression were associated with major changes in metabolite profiles. Some carbohydrates and amino acids differed ten-fold in abundance between PsbS-lacking mutants and over-expressers, with wild-type plants having intermediate amounts, showing that a metabolic shift had occurred. The transcriptomes of the genotypes also varied under field conditions, and the genes induced in plants lacking PsbS were similar to those reportedly induced in plants exposed to ozone stress or treated with methyl jasmonate (MeJA). Genes involved in the biosynthesis of JA were up-regulated, and enzymes involved in this pathway accumulated. JA levels in the undamaged leaves of field-grown plants did not differ between wild-type and PsbS-lacking mutants, but they were higher in the mutants when they were exposed to herbivory.
These findings suggest that lack of FDE results in increased photooxidative stress in the chloroplasts of Arabidopsis plants grown in the field, which elicits a response at the transcriptome level, causing a redirection of metabolism from growth towards defence that resembles a MeJA/JA response.
PMCID: PMC2656510  PMID: 19171025
4.  Lutein is needed for efficient chlorophyll triplet quenching in the major LHCII antenna complex of higher plants and effective photoprotection in vivo under strong light 
BMC Plant Biology  2006;6:32.
Lutein is the most abundant xanthophyll in the photosynthetic apparatus of higher plants. It binds to site L1 of all Lhc proteins, whose occupancy is indispensable for protein folding and quenching chlorophyll triplets. Thus, the lack of a visible phenotype in mutants lacking lutein has been surprising.
We have re-assessed the lut2.1 phenotypes through biochemical and spectroscopic methods. Lhc proteins from the lut2.1 mutant compensate the lack of lutein by binding violaxanthin in sites L1 and L2. This substitution reduces the capacity for regulatory mechanisms such as NPQ, reduces antenna size, induces the compensatory synthesis of Antheraxanthin + Zeaxanthin, and prevents the trimerization of LHCII complexes. In vitro reconstitution shows that the lack of lutein per se is sufficient to prevent trimerization. lut2.1 showed a reduced capacity for state I – state II transitions, a selective degradation of Lhcb1 and 2, and a higher level of photodamage in high light and/or low temperature, suggesting that violaxanthin cannot fully restore chlorophyll triplet quenching. In vitro photobleaching experiments and time-resolved spectroscopy of carotenoid triplet formation confirmed this hypothesis. The npq1lut2.1 double mutant, lacking both zeaxanthin and lutein, is highly susceptible to light stress.
Lutein has the specific property of quenching harmful 3Chl* by binding at site L1 of the major LHCII complex and of other Lhc proteins of plants, thus preventing ROS formation. Substitution of lutein by violaxanthin decreases the efficiency of 3Chl* quenching and causes higher ROS yield. The phenotype of lut2.1 mutant in low light is weak only because rescuing mechanisms of photoprotection, namely zeaxanthin synthesis, compensate for the ROS production. We conclude that zeaxanthin is effective in photoprotection of plants lacking lutein due to the multiple effects of zeaxanthin in photoprotection, including ROS scavenging and direct quenching of Chl fluorescence by binding to the L2 allosteric site of Lhc proteins.
PMCID: PMC1769499  PMID: 17192177

Results 1-4 (4)