The chlorophylls in vivo and in vitro

Part of the Handbuch der Pflanzenphysiologie / Encyclopedia of Plant Physiology book series (532, volume 5)


One of the major problems of plant physiology is the question why it is that chlorophyll, rather than some other pigment, is used for photosynthesis. This question is clearly stated in the following quotation from Franck (1955):

“Is there a special property of the absorption spectrum and of the molecular structure of chlorophyll which gives us an indication as to why this dye is unique in the promotion of the photochemical reactions of photosynthesis ? Do these offer us a plausible explanation as to how the energy of two quanta can be utilized for the transfer of one hydrogen atom ? How is the high concentration of chlorophyll in the chloroplasts prevented from inducing the excessive and damaging oxidation processes which it can promote in the presence of oxygen when dissolved in organic solvents ? Is this potentially damaging behavior prevented by the position of the chlorophyll molecule at the interface between protein and lipoid?

Studies of the absorption spectra of chlorophyll in vivo and in vitro, measurements of its fluorecence and chemi- luminescence spectrum under a variety of external conditions, application of chemical kinetics to the photochemical reactions of photosynthesis and of other photochemical processes involving chlorophyll- these are obviously means of getting some information on our problems.”


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