• Chlorophyll breakdown;
  • evolution;
  • RCC reductase;
  • stereoisomeric catabolites

Abstract: In angiosperms the key process of chlorophyll breakdown in senescing leaves is catalyzed by pheophorbide a oxygenase and RCC reductase which, in a metabolically channeled reaction, cleave the porphyrin macrocycle and produce a colourless primary catabolite, pFCC. RCC reductase is responsible for the reduction of the C20/C1 double bond of the intermediary catabolite, RCC. Depending on plant species, RCC reductase produces one of the two C1 stereoisomers, pFCC-1 or pFCC-2. Screening of a large number of taxa for the type of RCCR revealed that the isomer produced is uniform within families. It also revealed that type RCCR-2 is predominant; RCCR-1 seems to represent a recent derivation which in unrelated lineages has evolved independently from RCCR-2. A third type of pFCC was produced by RCCR from basal pteridophytes and some gymnosperms; its structure is unknown. Collectively, the data suggest that the pathway of chlorophyll breakdown is very conserved in vascular plants. RCCR appears to represent a decisive addition to the catabolic pathway: it allows terrestrial plants to metabolize the porphyrin part of the chlorophyll molecule to photodynamically inactive final products that are stored in the vacuoles of senescing mesophyll cells.