Photorespiratory glycolate-glyoxylate metabolism

J Exp Bot. 2016 May;67(10):3041-52. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erw090. Epub 2016 Mar 19.


Photorespiration is one of the major carbon metabolism pathways in oxygen-producing photosynthetic organisms. This pathway recycles 2-phosphoglycolate (2-PG), a toxic metabolite, to 3-phosphoglycerate when ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (RuBisCO) uses oxygen instead of carbon dioxide. The photorespiratory cycle is in competition with photosynthetic CO2 fixation and it is accompanied by carbon, nitrogen and energy losses. Thus, photorespiration has become a target to improve crop yields. Moreover, during the photorespiratory cycle intermediate metabolites that are toxic to Calvin-Benson cycle and RuBisCO activities, such as 2-PG, glycolate and glyoxylate, are produced. Thus, the presence of an efficient 2-PG/glycolate/glyoxylate 'detoxification' pathway is required to ensure normal development of photosynthetic organisms. Here we review our current knowledge concerning the enzymes that carry out the glycolate-glyoxylate metabolic steps of photorespiration from glycolate production in the chloroplasts to the synthesis of glycine in the peroxisomes. We describe the properties of the proteins involved in glycolate-glyoxylate metabolism in Archaeplastida and the phenotypes observed when knocking down/out these specific photorespiratory players. Advances in our understanding of the regulation of glycolate-glyoxylate metabolism are highlighted.

Keywords: 2-Phosphoglycolate; glycolate; glycolate oxidase; glyoxylate; metabolism; photorespiration..

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chloroplasts / metabolism
  • Chloroplasts / physiology
  • Glycolates / metabolism*
  • Glyoxylates / metabolism*
  • Peroxiredoxins / metabolism
  • Peroxiredoxins / physiology
  • Photosynthesis / physiology*
  • Plant Development / physiology
  • Plant Physiological Phenomena
  • Plants / metabolism


  • Glycolates
  • Glyoxylates
  • glycolic acid
  • Peroxiredoxins
  • glyoxylic acid