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Martino Tomizioli

Identification of new components in the  photosynthesis regulation

Published on 20 October 2014

Thesis presented October 20, 2014

Abstract :
Within higher plants and algae, photosynthesis is carried out in the chloroplast. Structurally, chloroplasts are organized in (i) the envelope, a double membrane system surrounding the chloroplast (ii) the stroma, the aqueous space which mainly contains soluble proteins and the (iii) thylakoids, a three-dimensional membrane network where photosynthetic electron tr​ansport reactions occur. Thylakoids are non-homogeneously folded, and comprise two major domains: (i) the grana-BBY, which are stacks of thylakoids particularly enriched in photosystem II, LHCII (the antenna-protein complex responsible for light harvesting) and (ii) the stroma lamellae, which are unstacked thylakoids connecting grana stacks enriched in photosystem I and ATP synthase. Plants can respond to changes in the environmental light conditions by several means as those which are collectively called non-photochemical quenching or NPQ. During my thesis, I mainly focused on two components of the NPQ: state transition (qT) and high-energy state quenching (qE).
State transitions is the process by which PSII-antenna proteins are re-organized between stroma-lamellae and grana-BBY following changes in ambient light both of intensity and spectral composition. State transitions play a key role in the plant adaptation but many aspects of this process remain unclear. The main objective of my thesis was to study the thylakoid protein re-localization between stroma-lamellae and grana-BBY during state transitions using a proteomic-based approach. At this aim I firstly focused on the sub-thylakoid protein localization in Arabidopsis WT and I developed different protocols for the purification of the two sub-compartments (stroma-lamellae and grana-BBY) starting from intact chloroplasts. Later, thanks to a semi-quantitative proteomic approach, I determined the precise localization of around 300 thylakoid proteins in Arabidopsis WT. Results suggested that the localization of the different photosynthetic complexes is much more dynamics than previously hypothesized. In fact, even if characterized by a preferential localization, some photosynthetic complexes displayed an unexpected double localization. Moreover the subunit composition of t​hese complexes was found to vary according to their localization (BBY or stroma-lamellae) suggesting the existenc​e of  mechanisms of regulation which have never been evidenced before. Later, we used the same mass-spectrometry-based approach on two different Arabidopsis mutants unable to perform state transitions. The objective was to highlight the involvement of other proteins (other than LHCII) which could possibly be re-localized within the photosynthetic membrane during state transitions. 
In the second part of my thesis, I focused on the high-energy state quenching component of the NPQ. qE allows the plant to dissipate excessive light energy as heat. This process it’s not constitutive but need to be activated by the formation of a difference in the pH between the stroma and the thylakoid lumen (
ΔpH). The objective of the study was to identify new possible actors in the regulation of the ΔpH formation. At this purpose I focused on a recently characterized potassium channel, TPK3. Thanks to a biophysical and biochemical approach, we demonstrated that TPK3 is involved, in vivo, in the modulation of the two components of the proton motive force (pmf), the ΔpH and the difference in the electric field ΔΨ. By controlling the repartition of the pmf, TPK3, controls also the formation of the NPQ and directly affects light utilization and dissipation in vivo. This avoids serious damages to the photosynthetic chain when plants are exposed to high-light conditions.

Photosynthesis, chloroplast, proteomics, thylakoid sub-compartments, state transitions

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