The biosynthesis of the chromophore of phycocyanin. Pathway of reduction of biliverdin to phycocyanobilin.

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The later stages in the pathway of biosynthesis of phycocyanobilin, the chromophore of phycocyanin, were studied by using radiolabelled intermediates. Three possible pathways from biliverdin IX-alpha to phycocyanobilin were considered. 14C-labelled samples of key intermediates in two of the pathways, 3-vinyl-18-ethyl biliverdin IX-alpha and 3-ethyl-18-vinyl biliverdin IX-alpha, were synthesized chemically and were administered to cultures of Cyanidium caldarium that were actively synthesizing photosynthetic pigments in the light. Neither of these two compounds was apparently incorporated into the phycobiliprotein chromophore, suggesting that two of the three pathways were not operative. By elimination, the results imply that the third possible pathway, which involves phytochromobilin, the chromophore of phytochrome, represents the route for biosynthesis of phycocyanobilin. Unfortunately, since 14C-labelled phytochromobilin is not available, no direct proof of this pathway could be obtained. However, if correct, the present interpretation represents a unified pathway for biosynthesis of all plant bilins, via the intermediacy of phytochromobilin.

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The Biochemical journal

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