Factors affecting the development of the capacity for ATP formation in isolated chloroplasts

Thomas Graan, Donald Richard Ort

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Full development of the capacity for ATP formation in isolated thylakoid membranes coincides with the beginning of illumination. Indeed, the yield of ATP per ms of illumination is about twice as great during the first 15 ms of high-intensity illumination as it is thereafter. The presence of valinomycin and K+ prevents the formation of a membrane potential (as indicated by the obliteration of most of the change in absorbance at 518 nm) and at the same time delays the formation of the capacity for ATP synthesis for many milliseconds. Presumably, phosphorylation is initially dependent on a rapidly formed membrane potential, whereas after a delay a ΔpH sufficient to drive ATP formation forms. The actual duration of this delay depends on the phosphoryl group transfer potential (i.e., ΔGATP) of the ATP-synthesizing reaction. If the delay in the presence of valinomycin and K+ represents the time required to develop a ΔpH capable of driving phosphorylation by itself, then the effect of ΔGATP on the duration of the delay suggests that the onset of phosphorylation is determined by the magnitude of the electrochemical potential of protons and not by factors affecting the activation of the coupling factor enzyme. The initial ATP formation, which is almost entirely dependent on the electrical potential, should not be affected by the electrically neutral exchange of cations catalyzed by nigericin. When the external pH is 7.0 this seems to be true, since the ATP synthesis which is initially sensitive to valinomycin and K+ is largely insensitive to nigericin and K+. However, when the external pH is 8.0 the response to nigericin is exactly the opposite and the ATP formation which is sensitive to valinomycin is also abolished by nigericin. These data suggest that there may be either an energetic requirement for both a ΔpH and membrane potential at alkaline pH or a non-energetic requirement for a minimum proton activity in the initiation of phosphorylation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-456
Number of pages10
JournalBBA - Bioenergetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 12 1981
Externally publishedYes


  • (Spinach chloroplast)
  • ATP formation
  • Membrane potential
  • pH difference
  • Phosphorylation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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