The demethoxycarbonyl reaction of pheophorbide a in plants and algae was investigated. Two types of enzyme that catalyze alternative reactions in the formation of pyropheophorbide a were found. One enzyme, designated 'pheophorbidase (Phedase)', was purified nearly to homogeneity from cotyledons of radish (Raphanus sativus). This enzyme catalyzes the conversion of pheophorbide a to a precursor of pyropheophorbide a, C-132-carboxylpyropheophorbide a, by demethylation, and then the precursor is decarboxylated non-enzymatically to yield pyropheophorbide a. The activity of Phedase was inhibited by the reaction product, methanol. The other enzyme, termed 'pheophorbide demethoxycarbonylase (PDC)', was highly purified from the Ch1 b-less mutant NL-105 of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. This enzyme had produced no intermediate as shown in the Phedase reaction, indicating that it converts pheophorbide a directly into pyropheophorbide a, probably by nucleophilic reaction. Phedase and PDC consisted of both senescence-induced and constitutive enzymes. The molecular weight of both Phedases was 113 000 and of senescence-induced PDC was 170 000. The Km values against pheophorbide a for both Phedases were 14-15 μM and 283 μM for senescence-induced PDC. The activity of both Phedases was inhibited by the reaction product, methanol, whereas methanol had no specific effect on senescence-induced PDC. Phenylmethylsulfonic fluoride and N-ethylmaleimide inhibited the senescence-induced Phedase and PDC, respectively. Among the 23 species from 15 different families tested, Phedase activity was found in 10 species from three families. PDC activity was not detected in plants lacking Phedase activity, except for Chlamydomonas. Based on these findings, a likely conclusion is that at least two alternative pathways that are catalyzed by two different enzymes, Phedase and PDC, exist for the formation of pyropheophorbide a.
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