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In most higher plants, chloroplasts move towards the periclinal cell walls in weak blue light (WBL) to increase light harvesting for photosynthesis, and towards the anticlinal walls as an escape reaction, thus avoiding photo-damage in strong blue light (SBL). The photoreceptor(s) triggering these responses have not yet been identified. In this study, the role of zeaxanthin as a blue-light photoreceptor in chloroplast movements was investigated. Time-lapse 3D confocal imaging in Lemna trisulca showed that individual chloroplasts responded to local illumination when one half of the cell was treated with light of different intensity or spectral quality to that received by the other half, or was maintained in darkness. Thus the complete signal perception, transduction and effector system has a high degree of spatial resolution and is consistent with localization of part of the transduction chain in the chloroplasts. Turnover of xanthophylls was determined using HPLC, and a parallel increase was observed between zeaxanthin and chloroplast movements in SBL. Ascorbate stimulated both a transient increase in zeaxanthin levels and chloroplast movement to profile in physiological darkness. Conversely, dithiothreitol blocked zeaxanthin production and responses to SBL and, to a lesser extent, WBL. Norflurazon preferentially inhibited SBL-dependent chloroplast movements. Increases in zeaxanthin were also observed in strong red light (SRL) when no directional chloroplast movements occurred. Thus it appears that a combination of zeaxanthin and blue light is required to trigger responses. Blue light can cause cis-trans isomerization of xanthophylls, thus photo-isomerization may be a critical link in the signal transduction pathway.

Original publication




Journal article


Plant Journal

Publication Date





447 - 459