Royal Society Publishing

The water–water cycle as alternative photon and electron sinks

Kozi Asada


The water–water cycle in chloroplasts is the photoreduction of dioxygen to water in photosystem I (PS I) by the electrons generated in photosystem II (PS II) from water. In the water–water cycle, the rate of photoreduction of dioxygen in PS I is several orders of magnitude lower than those of the disproportionation of superoxide catalysed by superoxide dismutase, the reduction of hydrogen peroxide to water catalysed by ascorbate peroxidase, and the reduction of the resulting oxidized forms of ascorbate by reduced ferredoxin or catalysed by either dehydroascorbate reductase or monodehydroascorbate reductase. The water–water cycle therefore effectively shortens the lifetimes of photoproduced superoxide and hydrogen peroxide to suppress the production of hydroxyl radicals, their interactions with the target molecules in chloroplasts, and resulting photoinhibition. When leaves are exposed to photon intensities of sunlight in excess of that required to support the fixation of CO2, the intersystem electron carriers are over–reduced, resulting in photoinhibition. Under such conditions, the water–water cycle not only scavenges active oxygens, but also safely dissipates excess photon energy and electrons, in addition to downregulation of PS II and photorespiration. The dual functions of the water–water cycle for protection from photoinhibition under photon excess stress are discussed, along with its functional evolution.

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