Photosynthesis Research

, Volume 114, Issue 2, pp 97–110 | Cite as

Reactive oxygen and oxidative stress: N-formyl kynurenine in photosystem II and non-photosynthetic proteins

  • Tina M. Dreaden Kasson
  • Bridgette A. BarryEmail author


While light is the essential driving force for photosynthetic carbon fixation, high light intensities are toxic to photosynthetic organisms. Prolonged exposure to high light results in damage to the photosynthetic membrane proteins and suboptimal activity, a phenomenon called photoinhibition. The primary target for inactivation is the photosystem II (PSII) reaction center. PSII catalyzes the light-induced oxidation of water at the oxygen-evolving complex. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are generated under photoinhibitory conditions and induce oxidative post translational modifications of amino acid side chains. Specific modification of tryptophan residues to N-formylkynurenine (NFK) occurs in the CP43 and D1 core polypeptides of PSII. The NFK modification has also been detected in other proteins, such as mitochondrial respiratory enzymes, and is formed by a non-random, ROS-targeted mechanism. NFK has been shown to accumulate in PSII during conditions of high light stress in vitro. This review provides a summary of what is known about the generation and function of NFK in PSII and other proteins. Currently, the role of ROS in photoinhibition is under debate. Furthermore, the triggers for the degradation and accelerated turnover of PSII subunits, which occur under high light, are not yet identified. Owing to its unique optical and Raman signal, NFK provides a new marker to use in the identification of ROS generation sites in PSII and other proteins. Also, the speculative hypothesis that NFK, and other oxidative modifications of tryptophan, play a role in the PSII damage and repair cycle is discussed. NFK may have a similar function during oxidative stress in other biologic systems.


Tryptophan N-formylkynurenine Photoinhibition Post translational modification Proteolysis Synechocystis PCC. 6803 Reactive oxygen species High light stress Photosystem II Photosynthetic oxygen evolution 



apoB lipoprotein




Electron paramagnetic resonance


Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay


Filamentation temperature-sensitive protease


High pressure liquid chromatography


Low density lipoprotein


Light harvesting complex




Not determined


Oxygen evolving complex


Photosystem II


Post-translational modification


Reactive oxygen species


Ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase oxygenase


Singlet oxygen


Triplet chlorophyll




Tandem mass spectrometry




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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Petit Institute for Bioengineering and BioscienceGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA

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