The synthesis and assembly of thylakoid membrane polar glycerolipid (glycolipid, phospholipid, and ether lipid) have been monitored in synchronous cultures of the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii 137+. A "pulse" protocol using radioactive acetate as the lipogenic precursor was devised to allow assessment of both processes during the 24-h (12-h light/12-h dark) vegetative cell cycle. Under these conditions, acetate incorporation into each chromatographically resolved lipid at the cellular level reliably reflects lipid synthesis, and the appearance of radiolabeled lipid in purified photosynthetic membrane is indicative of the lipid assembly attendant to thylakoid biogenesis. Our results demonstrate that polar glycerolipid is synthesized by the alga and is assembled into its thylakoid membrane continuously, but differentially, with respect to cell cycle time. Synthesis and assembly are most rapid during the photoperiod (mid-to-late G1), reach maximum rates at mid-photoperiod, and are comparatively negligible in the dark (S, M, and early-to-mid G1). The extent to which synthesis and assembly vary within this general kinetic pattern, though, is characteristic of each thylakoid lipid, suggesting that the processes take place in a multistep manner with some temporal coordination among the different lipid types. Parallelism between the cyclic patterns of polar lipid synthesis at the cellular level and of polar lipid assembly into photosynthetic membrane at the subcellular level indicates that lipid production is not only essential to continuing thylakoid biogenesis but is also the critical determinant of the kinetics of thylakoid lipid assembly.

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