Photosynthesis Research

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 149–162 | Cite as

Hypothesis for the evolution of three-helix Chl a/b and Chl a/c light-harvesting antenna proteins from two-helix and four-helix ancestors

  • Reverley R. Green
  • Eran Pichersky
Regular Papers


The nuclear-encoded Chl a/b and Chl a/c antenna proteins of photosynthetic eukaryotes are part of an extended family of proteins that also includes the early light-induced proteins (ELIPs) and the 22 kDa intrinsic protein of PS II (encoded by psbS gene). All members of this family have three transmembrane helices except for the psbS protein, which has four. The amino acid sequences of these proteins are compared and related to the three-dimensional structure of pea LHC II Type I (Kühlbrandt and Wang, Nature 350: 130–134, 1991). The similarity of psbS to the three-helix members of the family suggests that the latter arose from a four-helix ancestor that lost its C-terminal helix by deletion. Strong internal similarity between the two halves of the psbS protein suggests that it in turn arose as the result of the duplication of a gene encoding a two-helix protein. Since psbS is reported to be present in at least one cyanobacterium, the ancestral four-helix protein may have been present prior to the endosymbiotic event or events that gave rise to the photosynthetic eukaryotes. The Chl a/b and Chl a/c antenna proteins, and the immunologically-related proteins in the rhodophytes may have had a common ancestor which was present in the early photosynthetic eukaryotes, and predated their division into rhodophyte, chromophyte and chlorophyte lineages. The LHC I-LHC II divergence probably occurred before the separation of higher plants from chlorophyte algae and euglenophytes, and the different Types of LHC I and LHC II proteins arose prior to the separation of angiosperms and gymnosperms.

Key words

protein family psbS protein algae gene duplication LHC I LHC II CP29 



Chl a/b-binding


early light-induced protein


fucoxanthin-Chl a/c protein


polymerase chain reaction


trans-membrane helix


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Reverley R. Green
    • 1
  • Eran Pichersky
    • 2
  1. 1.Botany DepartmentUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Biology DepartmentUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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