Light-induced isomerization of the LHCII-bound xanthophyll neoxanthin: Possible implications for photoprotection in plants

M. Zubik, R. Luchowski, W. GrudziƄski, M. Gospodarek, I. Gryczynski, Z. Gryczynski, J.W. Dobrucki and W.I. Gruszecki

LHCII is the largest photosynthetic antenna complex of plants and the most abundant membrane protein in the biosphere. Plant fitness and productivity depend directly on a balance between excitations in the photosynthetic apparatus, generated by captured light quanta, and the rate of photochemical processes. Excess excitation energy leads to oxidative damage of the photosynthetic apparatus and entire organism and therefore the balance between the excitation density and photosynthesis requires precise and efficient regulation, operating also at the level of antenna complexes. We show that illumination of the isolated LHCII leads to isomerization of the protein-bound neoxanthin from conformation 9’-cis to 9’,13- and 9’,13’-dicis forms. At the same time light-driven excitation quenching is observed, manifested by a decrease in chlorophyll a fluorescence intensity and shortened fluorescence lifetimes. Both processes, the neoxanthin isomerization and the chlorophyll excitation quenching, are reversible in dim light. The results of the 77 K florescence measurements of LHCII show that illumination is associated with appearance of the low energy states, which can serve as energy traps in the pigment-protein complex subjected to excess excitation. Possible sequence of the molecular events is proposed, leading to a protective excess excitation energy quenching: neoxanthin photo-isomerization → formation of LHCII supramolecular structures which potentiate creation of energy traps → excitation quenching.