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Photosynthetic Research in Plant Science

Plant and Cell Physiology
Oxford University Press
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1093/pcp/pcp040
  • Editorial
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Medicine
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pcp040.indd Photosynthesis is a highly regulated, multistep process. It encompasses the harvest of solar energy, transfer of excita- tion energy, energy conversion, electron transfer from water to NADP + , ATP generation and a series of enzymatic reac- tions that assimilate carbon dioxide and synthesize carbohydrate. Photosynthesis has a unique place in the history of plant science, as its central concepts were established by the middle of the last century, and the detailed mechanisms have since been elucidated. For example, measurements of photosynthetic effi ciency (quantum yield) at different wave- lengths of light ( Emerson and Lews 1943 ) led to the insight that two distinct forms of Chl must be excited in oxygenic photosynthesis. These results suggested the concept of two photochemical systems. The reaction center pigments of PSII and PSI (P680 and P700, respectively) were found by studying changes in light absorbance in the red region ( Kok 1959 , Döring et al. 1969 ). Chls with absorbance maxima cor- responding to these specifi c wavelengths were proposed as the fi nal light sink. These Chls were shown to drive electron transfer by charge separation. The linkage of electron transfer and CO 2 assimilation was suggested by studies on Hill oxi- dant ( Hill 1937 ). A linear electron transport system with two light-driven reactions (Z scheme) was proposed based upon observations of the redox state of cytochromes ( Hill and Bendall 1960 , Duysens et al. 1961 ), and photophosphoryla- tion was found to be associated with thylakoid fragments ( Arnon et al. 1954 ). The metabolic pathway that assimilates carbon by fi xation of CO 2 was discovered by Calvin's group who used 14 CO 2 radioactive tracers in the 1950s ( Bassham and Calvin 1957 ). This was the fi rst signifi cant discovery in biochemistry made using radioactive tracers. The primary reaction of CO 2 fi xation is catalyzed by Rubisco ( Weissbach et al. 1956 ), initially called Fraction 1 protein (

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