3 years ago

A functional zeaxanthin epoxidase from red algae shedding light on the evolution of light-harvesting carotenoids and the xanthophyll cycle in photosynthetic eukaryotes

Oliver Dautermann, Martin Lohr
The epoxy-xanthophylls antheraxanthin and violaxanthin are key precursors of light-harvesting carotenoids and participate in the photoprotective xanthophyll cycle. Thus, the invention of zeaxanthin epoxidase (ZEP) catalyzing their formation from zeaxanthin has been a fundamental step in the evolution of photosynthetic eukaryotes. ZEP genes have only been found in Viridiplantae and chromalveolate algae with secondary plastids of red algal ancestry, suggesting that ZEP evolved in the Viridiplantae and spread to chromalveolates by lateral gene transfer. By searching publicly available sequence data from eleven red algae covering all currently recognized red algal classes we identified ZEP candidates in three species. Phylogenetic analyses showed that the red algal ZEP is most closely related to ZEP proteins from photosynthetic chromalveolates possessing secondary plastids of red algal origin. Its enzymatic activity was assessed by HPLC analyses of red algal pigment extracts and by cloning and functional expression of the ZEP gene from Madagascaria erythrocladioides in leaves of the ZEP-deficient aba2 mutant of Nicotiana plumbaginifolia. Unlike other ZEP enzymes examined so far, the red algal ZEP introduces only a single epoxy group into zeaxanthin, yielding antheraxanthin instead of violaxanthin. The results indicate that ZEP evolved before the split of Rhodophyta and Viridiplantae and that chromalveolates acquired ZEP from the red algal endosymbiont and not by lateral gene transfer. Moreover, the red algal ZEP enables engineering of transgenic plants incorporating antheraxanthin instead of violaxanthin in their photosynthetic machinery. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1111/tpj.13725

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