Laboratory Methods for the Study of Tetrapyrroles

  • Alison G. Smith
  • Michael Witty
Part of the Springer Protocols Handbooks book series (SPH)


Tetrapyrroles are a group of organic molecules that includes chlorophyll (Figure 1), hemes (Figure 2), bilins (Figure 3), and corrins, such as vitamin B12 (37). These molecules are also often referred to as porphyrins, although strictly, these are only those compounds with the same oxidation state as heme. Chlorophyll, for example, has one more saturated bond and is therefore a chlorin (30).
Figure 1.

The structure of chlorophyll a. Chlorophylls are present in protein complexes in the membrane of photosynthetic bacteria and the thylakoid membrane of chloroplasts, where they harvest and trap light energy during photosynthesis ( Chapters 10 and  11)

Figure 2.

The structure of protoheme IX. Hemes are found in a wide range of different proteins, including photosynthetic and respiratory cytochromes involved in electron transfer, the oxidative enzymes catalase and peroxidase, cytochrome P450s, which catalyze mono-oxygenase reactions, and oxygen-carrying proteins such as hemoglobin and myoglobin ( Chapters 7,  8, and  9).

Figure 3.

The structure of phytochromobilin. This is the chromophore of phytochromobilin, which is the red-light receptor of higher plants ( Chapter 13). Linear tetrapyrroles are also found as accessory light-harvesting pigments in cyanobacteria and many algae ( Chapter 14).


Coniferyl Alcohol Tetrapyrrole Macrocycle Reduce Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide Phosphate Commit Precursor Linear Tetrapyrrole 
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Copyright information

© Humana Press, Totowa, NJ 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alison G. Smith
    • 1
  • Michael Witty
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Plant SciencesUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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