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Xanthophylls

Xanthophylls

Photosynthesis is the conversion of light energy into chemical energy utilized by plants, many algae, and cyanobacteria. However, each photosynthetic organism must be able to dissipate the light radiation that exceeds its capacity for carbon dioxide fixation before it can damage the photosynthetic apparatus (i.e., the chloroplast ). This photoprotection is usually mediated by oxygenated carotenoids, i.e., a group of yellow pigments termed xanthophylls, including violaxanthin, antheraxanthin, and zeaxanthin, which dissipate the thermal radiation from the sunlight through the xanthophyll cycle.

Xanthophylls are present in two large protein-cofactor complexes, present in photosynthetic membranes of organisms using Photosystem I or Photosystem II. Photosystem II uses water as electron donors, and pigments and quinones as electron acceptors, whereas the Photosystem I uses plastocyanin as electron donors and iron-sulphur centers as electron acceptors. Photosystem I in thermophilic Cyanobacteria, for instance, is a crystal structure that contains 12 protein subunits, 2 phylloquinones, 22 carotenoids, 127 cofactors constituting 96 chlorophylls, besides calcium cations, phospholipids , three iron-sulphur groups, water, and other elements. This apparatus captures light and transfers electrons to pigments and at the same time dissipates the excessive excitation energy via the xanthophylls.

Xanthophylls are synthesized inside the plastids and do not depend on light for their synthesis as do chlorophylls. From dawn to sunset, plants and other photosynthetic organisms are exposed to different amounts of solar radiation, which determine the xanthophyll cycle. At dawn, a pool of diepoxides termed violaxanthin is found in the plastids, which will be converted by the monoepoxide antheraxanthin into zeaxanthin as the light intensity gradually increases during the day. Zeaxanthin absorbs and dissipates the excessive solar radiation that is not used by chlorophyll during carbon dioxide fixation. At the peak hours of sunlight exposition, almost all xanthophyll in the pool is found under the form of zeaxanthin, which will be gradually reconverted into violaxanthin as the solar radiation decreases in the afternoon to be reused again in the next day.

See also Autotrophic bacteria; Photosynthetic microorganisms

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xanthophyll cycle

xanthophyll cycle A cyclic series of interconversions involving certain xanthophylls, which plays a vital role in the photoprotection of plant chloroplasts. Under intense illumination, violaxanthin is converted, via an intermediate, to zeaxanthin. The latter is thought to receive excess energy from chlorophyll and dissipate this as heat, thereby avoiding possible damage to the photosynthetic apparatus. In dim light, the zeaxanthin is reconverted to violaxanthin, so that all incident light energy is used for photosynthesis.

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xanthophylls

xanthophylls Yellow‐orange hydroxylated carotene derivatives; occur in all green leaves together with the chlorophyll and carotene, also present in egg yolk, Cape gooseberry, rose hips, etc. Most have no vitamin A activity. Include flavoxanthin, lutein, cryptoxanthin, which is converted into vitamin A, rubixanthin, rhodoxanthin, and canthaxanthin.

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xanthophyll

xanthophyll A group of compounds that are oxygenated derivatives of carotenes, which act as accessory pigments during photosynthesis in plants and are found in some protozoons (see DINOFLAGELLIDA).

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xanthophyll

xanthophyll A member of a class of oxygen-containing carotenoid pigments, which provide the characteristic yellow and brown colours of autumn leaves.

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xanthophyll

xanthophyll See carotenoid.

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