Engineering the lutein epoxide cycle into Arabidopsis thaliana

Lauriebeth Leonelli, Matthew D. Brooks, Krishna K. Niyogi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although sunlight provides the energy necessary for plants to survive and grow, light can also damage reaction centers of photosystem II (PSII) and reduce photochemical efficiency. To prevent damage, plants possess photoprotective mechanisms that dissipate excess excitation. A subset of these mechanisms is collectively referred to as NPQ, or nonphotochemical quenching of chlorophyll a fluorescence. The regulation of NPQ is intrinsically linked to the cycling of xanthophylls that affects the kinetics and extent of the photoprotective response. The violaxanthin cycle (VAZ cycle) and the lutein epoxide cycle (LxL cycle) are two xanthophyll cycles found in vascular plants. The VAZ cycle has been studied extensively, owing in large part to its presence in model plant species where mutants are available to aid in its characterization. In contrast, the LxL cycle is not found in model plants, and its role in photosynthetic processes has been more difficult to define. To address this challenge, we introduced the LxL cycle into Arabidopsis thaliana and functionally isolated it from the VAZ cycle. Using these plant lines, we showed an increase in dark-acclimated PSII efficiency associated with Lx accumulation and demonstrated that violaxanthin deepoxidase is responsible for the light-driven deepoxidation of Lx. Conversion of Lx to L was reversible during periods of low light and occurred considerably faster than rates previously described in nonmodel species. Finally, we present clear evidence of the LxL cycle’s role in modulating a rapid component of NPQ that is necessary to prevent photoinhibition in excess light.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E7002-E7008
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number33
StatePublished - Aug 15 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Lutein
  • Lutein epoxide
  • Nonphotochemical quenching
  • Photoprotection
  • Xanthophyll cycle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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