Regulation and activation of phytoene synthase, a key enzyme in carotenoid biosynthesis, during photomorphogenesis

Planta. 2000 Nov;211(6):846-54. doi: 10.1007/s004250000352.


During photomorphogenesis in higher plants, a coordinated increase occurs in the chlorophyll and carotenoid contents. The carotenoid level is under phytochrome control, as reflected by the light regulation of the mRNA level of phytoene synthase (PSY), the first enzyme in the carotenoid biosynthetic pathway. We investigated PSY protein levels, enzymatic activity and topological localization during photomorphogenesis. The results revealed that PSY protein levels and enzymatic activity increase during de-etiolation and that the enzyme is localized at thylakoid membranes in mature chloroplasts. However, under certain light conditions (e.g., far-red light) the increases in PSY mRNA and protein levels are not accompanied by an increase in enzymatic activity. Under those conditions, PSY is localized in the prolamellar body fraction in a mostly enzymatically inactive form. Subsequent illumination of dark-grown and/or in far-red light grown seedlings with white light causes the decay of these structures and a topological relocalization of PSY to developing thylakolds which results in its enzymatic activation. This light-dependent mechanism of enzymatic activation of PSY in carotenoid biosynthesis shares common features with the regulation of the NADPH:protochlorophyllide oxidoreductase, the first light-regulated enzyme in chlorophyll biosynthesis. The mechanism of regulation described here may contribute to ensuring a spatially and temporally coordinated increase in both carotenoid and chlorophyll contents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alkyl and Aryl Transferases / genetics
  • Alkyl and Aryl Transferases / metabolism*
  • Brassica / enzymology
  • Brassica / growth & development
  • Brassica / radiation effects
  • Carotenoids / biosynthesis*
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant*
  • Geranylgeranyl-Diphosphate Geranylgeranyltransferase
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Morphogenesis
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Carotenoids
  • Alkyl and Aryl Transferases
  • Geranylgeranyl-Diphosphate Geranylgeranyltransferase

Associated data

  • GENBANK/X98795