ELIPs (early light-induced proteins) are thylakoid proteins transiently induced during greening of etiolated seedlings and during exposure to high light stress conditions. This expression pattern suggests that these proteins may be involved in the protection of the photosynthetic apparatus against photooxidative damage. To test this hypothesis, we have generated Arabidopsis ( Arabidopsis thaliana ) mutant plants null for both elip genes ( Elip1 and Elip2 ) and have analyzed their sensitivity to light during greening of seedlings and to high light and cold in mature plants. In particular, we have evaluated the extent of damage to photosystem II, the level of lipid peroxidation, the presence of uncoupled chlorophyll molecules, and the nonphotochemical quenching of excitation energy. The absence of ELIPs during greening at moderate light intensities slightly reduced the rate of chlorophyll accumulation but did not modify the extent of photoinhibition. In mature plants, the absence of ELIP1 and ELIP2 did not modify the sensitivity to photoinhibition and photooxidation or the ability to recover from light stress. This raises questions about the photoprotective function of these proteins. Moreover, no compensatory accumulation of other ELIP-like proteins (SEPs, OHPs) was found in the elip1 / elip2 double mutant during high light stress. elip1/elip2 mutant plants show only a slight reduction in the chlorophyll content in mature leaves and greening seedlings and a lower zeaxanthin accumulation in high light conditions, suggesting that ELIPs could somehow affect the stability or synthesis of these pigments. On the basis of these results, we make a number of suggestions concerning the biological function of ELIPs.
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