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FEATURE ARTICLE

How Plants Produce Dioxygen

At its core, oxygen production comes down to the chemistry of a poorly understood manganese-containing complex in the membranes of plant chloroplasts

Veronika Szalai, Gary Brudvig

Figure 2. Production of dioxygenClick to Enlarge Image

Over the past 200 years, scientists have come to appreciate that plants harness solar energy to manufacture carbohydrates and sugars from carbon dioxide and water. Less well appreciated is that a byproduct of photosynthesis is molecular oxygen, or dioxygen. In fact, all of the oxygen we breathe is supplied by photosynthetic plants. It is now well understood that oxygen is the end product of a long series of oxidation and reduction reactions that take place in the membranes of chloroplasts, organelles found in plant cells. The final reaction, however, takes place in a poorly understood structure called the oxygen-evolving complex. The authors describe their efforts to model this complex and infer a mechanism for the production of dioxygen.


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