Understanding Photosynthetic Electron Transport Using Chlamydomonas: The Path from Classical Genetics to High Throughput Genomics

  • Arthur R. Grossman
  • David González-Ballester
  • Shaun Bailey
  • Steven J. Karpowicz
  • Sabeeha S. Merchant
Part of the Advances in Photosynthesis and Respiration book series (AIPH, volume 33)


The Volvocales, an order of the green algal class Chlorophyceae, and the Streptophyte algae, the lineage that evolved into land plants, shared a common ancestor about one billion years ago. Chlamydomonas reinhardtii (Chlamydomonas throughout) a unicellular member of the Volvocales, has traditionally been considered a strong model organism that has been probed with sophisticated tools and methodologies to elucidate numerous biological processes. Perhaps the most in-depth analyses of Chlamydomonas have focused on defining proteins and complexes involved in the function and biogenesis of chloroplasts as well as the structure, assembly, and function of eukaryotic flagella (cilia); the latter are inherited from the common ancestor of animals and plants, but were lost during the evolution of land plants. This review emphasizes how Chlamydomonas has been used to elucidate a number of different activities associated with photosynthetic function. Many of these analyses were performed using classical genetic, biochemical and physiological approaches. However, recently, the DOE – Joint Genome Institute has sequenced the nuclear genome of Chlamydomonas (∼120 Mb) and has helped the community of researchers perform comparative genomic analyses. Comparisons of deduced Chlamydomonas proteins has identified a set of proteins specifically present in the green lineage and photosynthetic organisms, but not present in nonphotosynthetic organisms; this protein assemblage has been designated the GreenCut. Many proteins in the GreenCut are likely resident in the chloroplast and potentially associated with photosynthetic processes. Toward the end of this text we discuss the ways in which genomics has added a new dimension to our analyses of photosynthetic processes.





δ-aminolevulinic acid dehydratase


bacterial artificial chromosome


control of epistasis of synthesis


refers to proteins of the GreenCut conserved in the green lineage organisms


refers to proteins of the GreenCut conserved in the green lineage organisms and the diatoms




chlorophyll cation


H subunit of Mg-chelatase


I subunit of the Mg-chelatase


catalyzes the cyclase reaction in chlorophyll biosynthesis


chlorophyll binding antenna protein tightly bound to photosystem II


coproporphyrinogen oxidase


an iron requiring cyclase involve in chlorophyll synthesis


the rapidly turning over reaction center protein of photosystem II


reaction center protein of photosystem II that associates with D1


protease involved in chloroplast biogenesis






ferredoxin NADP oxido-reductase


ferredoxin-quinone reductase


protein that regulates chlorophyll biosynthesis


expressed sequence tag


protease involved in the turnover of proteins of the photosynthetic apparatus


glutamate 1-semialdehyde (GSA) aminotransferase


golden-like kinase transcriptional regulator


glutamyl tRNA reductase


antenna chlorophyll binding proteins synthesized during iron deprivation (similar to CP43)


flavodoxin synthesized during iron deprivation


Joint Genome Institute


light harvesting complex


light harvesting complex II


light harvesting complex of photosystem I


light harvesting proteins associated with photosystem II


protein in the light harvesting complex family that may be involved in photoprotection in Chlamydomonas


protein required for stable accumulation of petA RNA


Mg-protoporphyrin IX


Mg-protoporphyrin IX-monomethylester


forms a complex with mRNA encoding light harvesting proteins


NADH:ubiquinone oxidoreductase


oxygen evolving complex

PGR1 and PGR5

protein thought to be part of the ferredoxin-quinone reductase complex


non-photochemical quenching


cytochrome f


photosystem I


photosystem II


specific polypeptide associated with photosystem II


proteins associated with photosystem I (an additional letter indicates the subunit of the complex)


protein associated with photosystem II (an additional letter indicates the subunit of the complex)


protein in the light harvesting family involved in qE-based quenching




quenching through the formation of an electrochemical gradient


quenching through inhibition of photosystem II


quenching through the formation of a state transition


gene encoding the large subunit of ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase


RNA interference


new generation of RNA sequencing


reactive oxygen species


carboxylase ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase


Arabidopsis serine threonine protein kinase associated with state transition


Arabidopsis protein with homology to STN7


Chlamydomonas serine threonine protein kinase associated with state transition


protein involved in the translation of petA mRNA


proteins on the inner membrane of the chloroplast envelop involved in transporting proteins into the chloroplast


proteins on outer inner membrane of the chloroplast envelop involved in transporting proteins into the chloroplast






zeaxanthin cation


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arthur R. Grossman
    • 1
  • David González-Ballester
    • 1
  • Shaun Bailey
    • 2
  • Steven J. Karpowicz
    • 3
  • Sabeeha S. Merchant
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Plant BiologyCarnegie Institution for ScienceStanfordUSA
  2. 2.Aurora BiofuelsAlamedaUSA
  3. 3.Department of Chemistry and BiochemistryUniversity of California – Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  4. 4.Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Institute for Genomics and ProteomicsUniversity of California – Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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