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Light-harvesting proteins of diatoms: Their relationship to the chlorophyll a/b binding proteins of higher plants and their mode of transport into plastids


We have cloned and characterized members of a gene family encoding polypeptide constituents of the fucoxanthin, chlorophyll a/c protein complex, a light-harvesting complex associated with photosystem II of diatoms and brown algae. Three cDNA clones encoding proteins associated with this complex in the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum have been isolated. As deduced from the nucleotide sequences, these light-harvesting proteins show homology to the chlorophyll a/b binding polypeptides of higher plants. Specifically, the N-terminal regions of the fucoxanthin, chlorophyll a/c-binding proteins are homologous to the chlorophyll a/b binding proteins in both the third membrane-spanning domain and the stroma-exposed region between membrane-spanning domains 2 and 3. Like the chlorophyll a/b-binding proteins, the mature fucoxanthin, chlorophyll a/c polypeptides have three hydrophobic α-helical domains which could span the membrane bilayer. The similarities between the two light-harvesting proteins might reflect the fact that both bind chlorophyll molecules and/or might be important for maintaining certain structural features of the complex. There is little similarity between the N-terminal sequences of the primary translation products of the fucoxanthin, chlorophyll a/c proteins and any transit sequences that have been characterized. Instead, the N-terminal sequences have features resembling those of signal sequences. Thus either transit peptides used in P. tricornutum show little resemblance to those of higher plants and green algae or the nuclear-encoded plastid proteins enter the organelle via a mechanism different from that used in higher plants.

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Correspondence to Arthur Grossman.

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Communicated by E. Meyerowitz

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Grossman, A., Manodori, A. & Snyder, D. Light-harvesting proteins of diatoms: Their relationship to the chlorophyll a/b binding proteins of higher plants and their mode of transport into plastids. Molec. Gen. Genet. 224, 91–100 (1990).

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Key words

  • Light-harvesting
  • Fucoxanthin, chlorophyll a/c proteins
  • Protein transport
  • Chromophytic algae