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The physiological roles and metabolism of ascorbate in chloroplasts



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Ascorbate is a multifunctional metabolite in plants. It is essential for growth control, involving cell division and cell wall synthesis and also involved in redox signaling, in the modulation of gene expression and regulation of enzymatic activities. Ascorbate also fulfills crucial roles in scavenging reactive oxygen species, both enzymatically and nonenzymatically, a well-established phenomenon in the chloroplasts stroma. We give an overview on these important physiological functions and would like to give emphasis to less well-known roles of ascorbate, in the thylakoid lumen, where it also plays multiple roles. It is essential for photoprotection as a cofactor for violaxanthin de-epoxidase, a key enzyme in the formation of nonphotochemical quenching. Lumenal ascorbate has recently also been shown to act as an alternative electron donor of photosystem II once the oxygen-evolving complex is inactivated and to protect the photosynthetic machinery by slowing down donor-side induced photoinactivation; it is yet to be established if ascorbate has a similar role in the case of other stress effects, such as high light and UV-B stress. In bundle sheath cells, deficient in oxygen evolution, ascorbate provides electrons to photosystem II, thereby poising cyclic electron transport around photosystem I. It has also been shown that, by supporting linear electron transport through photosystem II in sulfur-deprived Chlamydomonas reinhardtii cells, in which oxygen evolution is largely inhibited, externally added ascorbate enhances hydrogen production. For fulfilling its multiple roles, Asc has to be transported into the thylakoid lumen and efficiently regenerated; however, very little is known yet about these processes.