Photocatalysis as the ‘master switch’ of photomorphogenesis in early plant development

Derren Heyes, Shaowei Zhang, Aoife Taylor, Linus Johannissen, Samantha Hardman, Sam Hay, Nigel Scrutton

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Enzymatic photocatalysis is seldom used in biology. Photocatalysis by protochlorophyllide oxidoreductase (LPOR) – one of only a few natural light-dependent enzymes – is an exception, and is responsible for the conversion of protochlorophyllide to chlorophyllide in chlorophyll biosynthesis. Photocatalysis by LPOR not only regulates biosynthesis of the most abundant pigment on Earth, it is also a ‘master switch’ in photomorphogenesis in early plant development. Upon illumination, LPOR promotes chlorophyll production, plastid membranes are transformed and the photosynthetic apparatus is established. Given these remarkable, light-induced pigment and morphological changes, the LPOR-catalyzed reaction has been studied extensively from catalytic, physiological and plant development perspectives, highlighting vital, and multiple, cellular roles of this intriguing enzyme. Here, we offer a perspective in which the link between LPOR photocatalysis and plant photomorphogenesis is explored. Notable have been breakthroughs in LPOR structural biology that have uncovered the structural-mechanistic basis of photocatalysis. These studies have clarified how photon absorption by the pigment protochlorophyllide – bound in a ternary LPOR–protochlorophyllide–NADPH complex – triggers photocatalysis, and a cascade of complex molecular and cellular events that lead to plant morphological change. Photocatalysis is therefore the ‘master switch’ responsible for early stage plant development, and ultimately life on Earth.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Plants
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2021

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Institute of Biotechnology


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