Changes in the quantities of violaxanthin de-epoxidase, xanthophylls and ascorbate in spinach upon shift from low to high light

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Zeaxanthin, a carotenoid in the xanthophyll cycle, has been suggested to play a role in the protection against photodestruction. We have studied the importance of the parameters involved in zeaxanthin formation by comparing spinach plants grown in low light (100 to 250 mol m-2 s-1) to plants transferred to high light (950 mol m-2 s-1). Different parameters were followed for a total of 11 days. Our experiments show that violaxanthin de-epoxidase decreased between 15 and 30%, the quantity of xanthophyll cycle pigments doubled to 100 mmol (mol Chl)-1, corresponding to 27 mol m-2, and the rate of violaxanthin to zeaxanthin conversion was doubled. Lutein and neoxanthin increased from 50 to 71 mol m-2 and from 16 to 23 mol m-2, respectively. On a leaf area basis, chlorophyll and -carotene levels first decreased and then after 4 days increased. The chlorophyll a/b ratio was unchanged. The quantity of ascorbate was doubled to 2 mmol m-2, corresponding to an estimated increase in the chloroplasts from 25 to 50 mM. In view of our data, we propose that the increase in xanthophyll cycle pigments and ascorbate only partly explain the increased rate of conversion of violaxanthin to zeaxanthin, but the most probable explanation of the faster conversion is an increased accessibility of violaxanthin in the membrane.


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  • Biological Sciences
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-50
JournalPhotosynthesis Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1998
Publication categoryResearch