Mathematical review of literature to assess alternative electron transports and interphotosystem excitation partitioning of steady-state C3 photosynthesis under limiting light


Xinyou Yin. Fax: +31 317 485572; e-mail:


Linear whole-chain electron (e) transport plays a dominant role in generating NADPH and ATP required for carbon fixation in chloroplasts. However, other e pathways may be present to contribute to the flexibility of e transport in meeting demands by various downstream metabolic processes. The estimation of the fluxes of these alternative pathways in vivo is difficult, as they are not amenable to direct experimental measurement. A recently developed model based on the generalized stoichiometry for the chloroplast e transport pathways makes it possible to indirectly but quantitatively assess the fractions of e that follow the alternative pathways. This model approach is used to review data from the literature on concurrent measurements of gas exchange and chlorophyll (Chl) fluorescence under steady-state, limiting light, non-photorespiratory conditions. The review suggests possible in vivo occurrence of cyclic e transport (CET) under such conditions. About 10% of e from the reduced ferredoxin follow the pseudocyclic mode, notably in support of nitrate reduction. The estimated fraction of e from the reduced plastoquinone that follows the Q-cycle ( fQ) depends on the number of protons required per ATP synthesis. Our model approach also allows the excitation partitioning to photosystem II (PSII) to be assessed quantitatively. Most important, the model helps assess the limit value to uncertain physiological parameters and answer the ‘what-if’ question with regard to the effect of non-measured processes or measurement uncertainties on the estimations of alternative e transports.