Gymnosperms Have Increased Capacity for Electron Leakage to Oxygen (Mehler and PTOX reactions) in Photosynthesis Compared with Angiosperms

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Oxygen plays an important role in photosynthesis by participating in a number of O2-consuming reactions. O2 inhibits CO2 fixation by stimulating photorespiration, thus reducing plant production. O2 interacts with photosynthetic electron transport in the chloroplasts’ thylakoids in two main ways: by accepting electrons from PSI (Mehler reaction); and by accepting electrons from reduced plastoquinone (PQ) mediated by the plastid terminal oxidase (PTOX). In this study, we show, using 101 plant species, that there is a difference in the potential for photosynthetic electron flow to O2 between angiosperms and gymnosperms. We found, from measurements of Chl fluorescence and leaf absorbance at 830 nm, (i) that electron outflow from PSII, as determined by decay kinetics of Chl fluorescence after application of a saturating light pulse, is more rapid in gymnosperms than in angiosperms; (ii) that the reaction center Chl of PSI (P700) is rapidly and highly oxidized in gymnosperms during induction of photosynthesis; and (iii) that these differences are dependent on oxygen. Finally, rates of O2 uptake measured by mass spectrometry in the absence of photorespiration were significantly promoted by illumination in dark-adapted leaves of gymnosperms, but not in those of angiosperms. The light-stimulated O2 uptake was around 10% of the maximum O2 evolution in gymnosperms and 1% in angiosperms. These results suggest that gymnosperms have increased capacity for electron leakage to oxygen in photosynthesis compared with angiosperms. The involvement of the Mehler reaction and PTOX in the electron flow to O2 is discussed.

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