Arabidopsis carotenoid mutants demonstrate that lutein is not essential for photosynthesis in higher plants

Plant Cell. 1996 Sep;8(9):1627-39. doi: 10.1105/tpc.8.9.1627.


Lutein, a dihydroxy beta, epsilon-carotenoid, is the predominant carotenoid in photosynthetic plant tissue and plays a critical role in light-harvesting complex assembly and function. To further understand lutein synthesis and function, we isolated four lutein-deficient mutants of Arabidopsis that define two loci, lut1 and lut2 (for lutein deficient). These loci are required for lutein biosynthesis but not for the biosynthesis of beta, beta-carotenoids. The lut1 mutations are recessive, accumulate high levels of zeinoxanthin, which is the immediate precursor of lutein, and define lut1 as a disruption in epsilon ring hydroxylation. The lut2 mutations are semidominant, and their biochemical phenotype is consistent with a disruption of epsilon ring cyclization. The lut2 locus cosegregates with the recently isolated epsilon cyclase gene, thus, providing additional evidence that the lut2 alleles are mutations in the epsilon cyclase gene. It appears likely that the epsilon cyclase is a key step in regulating lutein levels and the ratio of lutein to beta,beta-carotenoids. Surprisingly, despite the absence of lutein, neither the lut1 nor lut2 mutation causes a visible deleterious phenotype or altered chlorophyll content, but both mutants have significantly higher levels of beta, beta-carotenoids. In particular, there is a stable increase in the xanthophyll cycle pigments (violaxanthin, antheraxanthin, and zeaxanthin) in both lut1 and lut2 mutants as well as an increase in zeinoxanthin in lut1 and beta-carotene in lut2. The accumulation of specific carotenoids is discussed as it pertains to the regulation of carotenoid biosynthesis and incorporation into the photosynthetic apparatus. Presumably, particular beta, beta-carotenoids are able to compensate functionally and structurally for lutein in the photosystems of Arabidopsis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / genetics*
  • Arabidopsis / metabolism*
  • Carotenoids / chemistry
  • Carotenoids / genetics*
  • Carotenoids / metabolism*
  • Chlorophyll / metabolism
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Genes, Dominant
  • Genes, Plant
  • Genes, Recessive
  • Genetic Linkage
  • Lutein / biosynthesis
  • Lutein / genetics
  • Lutein / metabolism*
  • Molecular Structure
  • Mutation
  • Photosynthesis / genetics
  • Photosynthesis / physiology*


  • Chlorophyll
  • Carotenoids
  • Lutein