Synthesis of the chlorophyll and the major carotenoid pigments and their assembly into thylakoid membrane have been studied throughout the 12-h light/12-h dark vegetative cell cycle of synchronous Chlamydomonas reinhardtii 137+ (wild-type). Pulse exposure of cells to radioactive acetate under conditions in which labeling accurately reflects lipogenesis, followed by cellular fractionation to purify thylakoid membrane, allowed direct analysis of the pigment synthesis and assembly attendant to thylakoid biogenesis. All pigments are synthesized and assembled into thylakoids continuously, but differentially, with respect to cell-cycle time. Highest synthesis and assembly rates are confined to the photoperiod (mid-to-late G1) and support chlorophyll and carotenoid accretion before M-phase. The lower levels at which these processes take place during the dark period (S, M, and early-to-mid G1) have been ascribed to pigment turnover. Within this general periodic pattern, pigment synthesis and assembly occur in a "multi-step" manner, i.e., by a temporally-ordered, stepwise integration of the various pigments into the thylakoid membrane matrix. The cell-cycle kinetics of pigment assembly at the subcellular level mirror the kinetics of pigment synthesis at the cellular level, indicating that pigment synthesis not only provides chlorophyll and carotenoid for thylakoid biogenesis but may also serve as a critical rate-determinant to pigment assembly.

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