Having long been debated, it is only in the last few years that a concensus has emerged that the cyclic flow of electrons around Photosystem I plays an important and general role in the photosynthesis of higher plants. Two major pathways of cyclic flow have been identified, involving either a complex termed NDH or mediated via a pathway involving a protein PGR5 and two functions have been described-to generate ATP and to provide a pH gradient inducing non-photochemical quenching. The best evidence for the occurrence of the two pathways comes from measurements under stress conditions-high light, drought and extreme temperatures. In this review, the possible relative functions and importance of the two pathways is discussed as well as evidence as to how the flow through these pathways is regulated. Our growing knowledge of the proteins involved in cyclic electron flow will, in the future, enable us to understand better the occurrence and diversity of cyclic electron transport pathways. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Regulation of Electron Transport in Chloroplasts.
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