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On the mechanism of photosynthesis in purple bacteria and green plants

On the mechanism of photosynthesis in purple bacteria and green plants

New Phytol 40(1): 34-55

DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.1941.tb07027.x

In Streptococcus varians, a species of Athiorhodaceae, which gives the photosynthetic reaction 2 H2 + CO2 = CH2O + H2O, according to French, the assimilation/light intensity curve is sigmoid. It can be explained quantitatively if it is assumed that the photosynthetic process consists of 4 photoreactions, the first 3 of which are reversible, and an enzymatic dark process (Blackman reaction) in which the enzyme is blocked by a product of assimilation for some time before it can take part afresh in the photosynthetic process. A Blackman reaction of this type takes more time the higher the rate of assimilation. In green plants all the photoreactions are irreversible. And the time during which the Blackman enzyme is blocked usually is negligible, but in some cases blocking of the enzyme occurs to about the same extent as in purple bacteria. The mechanism proposed provides shapes of assimilation curves varying from the smooth hyperbolic form to the broken "Blackman" line. In every case the shape of the theoretical curve is the same for the 2 variables: light intensity and CO2 conc. as was found in expts. in which external circumstances, which bring about a difference, have been avoided; and in every case, at low light intensity and high CO2 conc. a quantum efficiency of 1/4 is allowed for. The capacity of bacteriochlorophyll for photosynthesis in purple bacteria can approx. be calculated from the max. rate of assimilation and the % of absorbed light. It is about the same as that of chlorophyll in green plants. Thus the photosynthetic unit which has been made probable for green plants seems also to exist in purple bacteria. Several variations of the photosynthetic mechanism are investigated and other theories, some of which have been suggested as alternatives to the theory of the photosynthetic unit, are discussed. No satisfactory alternative seems to exist at present.

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