Non-photochemical quenching and xanthophyll cycle activities in six green algal species suggest mechanistic differences in the process of excess energy dissipation

J Plant Physiol. 2015 Jan 1;172:92-103. doi: 10.1016/j.jplph.2014.07.023. Epub 2014 Sep 3.


In the present study the non-photochemical quenching (NPQ) of four biofilm-forming and two planktonic green algae was investigated by fluorescence measurements, determinations of the light-driven proton gradient and determination of the violaxanthin cycle activity by pigment analysis. It was observed that, despite the common need for efficient photoprotection, the structural basis of NPQ was heterogeneous in the different species. Three species, namely Chlorella saccharophila, Chlorella vulgaris and Bracteacoccus minor, exhibited a zeaxanthin-dependent NPQ, while in the three other species, Tetracystis aeria, Pedinomonas minor and Chlamydomonas reinhardtii violaxanthin de-epoxidation was absent or unrelated to the establishment of NPQ. Acclimation of the algae to high light conditions induced an increase of the NPQ activity, suggesting that a significant part of the overall NPQ was rather inducible than constitutively present in the green algae. Comparing the differences in the NPQ mechanisms with the phylogenetic position of the six algal species led to the conclusion that the NPQ heterogeneity observed in the present study was not related to the phylogeny of the algae but to the environmental selection pressure. Finally, the difference in the NPQ mechanisms in the different species is discussed within the frame of the current NPQ models.

Keywords: Green algae; Non-photochemical quenching; Photoprotection; Xanthophyll cycle; Zeaxanthin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization
  • Chlorophyll / physiology*
  • Chlorophyll A
  • Chlorophyta / physiology*
  • Fluorescence
  • Light
  • Photosynthesis*
  • Species Specificity
  • Xanthophylls / metabolism*


  • Xanthophylls
  • Chlorophyll
  • Chlorophyll A