The Evolution of Plastids and the Photosynthetic Apparatus

  • Michael Reith
Part of the Advances in Photosynthesis and Respiration book series (AIPH, volume 4)


Understanding how the diversity of present day plastids arose is the major challenge in plastid evolution. While it is clear that one or more endosymbiotic events involving a cyanobacterium and a eukaryotic host occurred, many of the subsequent details of plastid evolution are murky. In particular, three critical questions must be addressed: how many primary endosymbioses were involved; how many secondary endosymbioses (where the plastid arises from a eukaryotic endosymbiont) occurred; and, how have the light-harvesting complexes of chlorophytes and chromophytes evolved? A summary of current evidence on the number of primary endosymbioses indicates that there was only a single primary event. On the other hand, secondary endosymbioses appear to have occurred at least three times and possibly as many as five. Within this basic framework of plastid evolution, the evolution of the photosynthetic apparatus is considered by focusing on the presence/absence and coding location ofphotosynthetic genes as markers to further define the events of plastid evolution. In addition, the question of the origins of chlorophyte and chromophyte light-harvesting complexes is discussed. A recently described group of small cyanobacterial and rhodophyte proteins contain a critical pigment-binding, transmembrane domain that is also present in two copies in chlorophyte and chromophyte light-harvesting proteins and in the early light-induced proteins and PsbS. These similarities indicate that the cyanobacterial protein donated the critical domain for both chlorophyte and chromophyte light-harvesting proteins. The possible pathways and driving forces of the evolution of light-harvesting proteins are considered. Finally, a very basic model of the possible events and pathways of plastid evolution, with emphasis on the evolution of the photosynthetic apparatus, is presented.


CAB – Chlorophyll a/b binding protein ELIP –Early light-induced protein FCP – Fucoxanthin chlorophyll protein FCPC – Fucoxanthin chlorophyll a/c protein complex HLIP – High light inducible protein LHC – Light-harvesting complex LHCPII – Light-harvesting chlorophyll a/b-binding proteins of Photosystem II OEC – Oxygen-evolving complex PBGD – Porphobilinogen deaminase PS I – Photosystem I PS II – Photosystem II Rubisco – Ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase SSU – Small subunit TMH – Transmembrane helix 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Reith
    • 1
  1. 1.NRC Institute for Marine BiosciencesHalifaxCanada

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