2.3.2  Substrates for photorespiration

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The search for the substrates of ‘photorespiration’ occupied many laboratories worldwide for many years. Much work centred on synthesis and oxidation of the two-carbon acid glycolate because as early as 1920 Warburg had reported that CO2 fixation by illuminated Chlorella was inhibited by O2, and under these conditions the alga excreted massive amounts of glycolic acid (Warburg and Krippahl 1960). Indeed numerous reports on the nature of the 14C-labelled products of photo-synthesis showed that glycolate was a prominent early-labelled product. A very wide variety of research with algae and leaves of many higher plants established two significant features of glycolate synthesis: formation was enhanced in either low CO2 or high O2. Both of these features had been predicted from Ludwig’s (1968) physiological gas exchange work and eventually proved a key to understanding the biochemistry of photorespiration.

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