Carotenoids are essential components of the photosynthetic apparatus involved in plant photoprotection. To investigate the protective role of zeaxanthin under high light and UV stress we have increased the capacity for its biosynthesis in tobacco plants (Nicotiana tabacum L. cv. Samsun) by transformation with a heterologous carotenoid gene encoding β-carotene hydroxylase (crtZ) from Erwinia uredovora under constitutive promoter control. This enzyme is responsible for the conversion of β-carotene into zeaxanthin. Although the total pigment content of the transgenics was similar to control plants, the transformants synthesized zeaxanthin more rapidly and in larger quantities than controls upon transfer to high-intensity white light. Low-light-adapted tobacco plants were shown to be susceptible to UV exposure and therefore chosen for comparative analysis of wild-type and transgenics. Overall effects of UV irradiation were studied by measuring bioproductivity and pigment content. The UV exposed transformed plants maintained a higher biomass and a greater amount of photosynthetic pigments than controls. For revelation of direct effects, photosynthesis, pigment composition and chlorophyll fluorescence were examined immediately after UV treatment. Low-light-adapted plants of the crtZ transgenics showed less reduction in photosynthetic oxygen evolution and had higher chlorophyll fluorescence levels in comparison to control plants. After 1 h of high-light pre-illumination and subsequent UV exposure a greater amount of xanthophyll cycle pigments was retained in the transformants. In addition, the transgenic plants suffered less lipid peroxidation than the wild-type after treatment with the singlet-oxygen generator rose bengal. Our results indicate that an enhancement of zeaxanthin formation in the presence of a functional xanthophyll cycle contributes to UV stress protection and prevention of UV damage.
Plant Molecular Biology – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 13, 2004
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