Structural differences between light and heavy rare earth element binding chlorophylls in naturally grown fern Dicranopteris linearis

Zhenggui Wei*, Fashui Hong, Ming Yin, Huixin Li, Feng Hu, Guiwen Zhao, Jonathan W C WONG

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Chloroplasts and chlorophylls were isolated from the leaves of Dicranopteris linearis, a natural perennial fern sampled at rare earth element (REE) mining areas in the South-Jiangxi region (southern China). The inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) results indicated that REEs were present in the chloroplasts and chlorophylls of D. linearis. The in vivo coordination environment of light REE (lanthanum) or heavy REE (yttrium) ions in D. linearis chlorophyll-a was determined by the extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS). Results revealed that there were eight nitrogen atoms in the first coordination shell of the lanthanum atom, whereas there were four nitrogen atoms in the first coordination shell of yttrium. It was postulated that the lanthanum-chlorophyll-a complex might have a double-layer sandwichlike structure, but yttrium-binding chlorophyll-a might be in a single-layer form. Because the content of REE-binding chlorophylls in D. linearis chlorophylls was very low, it is impossible to obtain structural characteristics of REE-binding chlorophylls by direct analysis of the Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) and ultraviolet (UV) - visible spectra of D. linearis chlorophylls. In order to acquire more structural information of REE-binding chlorophyll-a in D. linearis, lanthanum- and yttrium-chlorophyll-a complexes were in vitro synthesized in acetone solution. Element analyses and EXAFS results indicated that REE ions (lanthanum or yttrium) of REE-chlorophyll-a possessed the same coordination environment whether in vivo or in vitro. The FTIR spectra of the REE-chlorophyll-a complexes indicated that REEs were bound to the porphyrin rings of chlorophylls. UV-visible results showed that the intensity ratios of Soret to the Q-band of REE-chlorophyll-a complexes were higher than those of standard chlorophyll-a and pheophytin-a, indicating that REE-chlorophyll-a might have a much stronger ability to absorb the ultraviolet light. The MCD spectrum in the Soret band region of lanthanum-chlorophyll-a showed a special peak, but yttrium-chlorophyll-a did not have this special peak, corresponding well to their double-layer and single-layer structure, respectively. Structural differences between lanthanum - and yttrium-chlorophyll-a might result from the difference in ion radius between yttrium and lanthanum. These data might be useful for understanding of both the properties of REE-chlorophyll-a complexes and the physiological roles of REEs in the hyperaccumulator D. linearis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-297
Number of pages19
JournalBiological Trace Element Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2005

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical
  • Inorganic Chemistry

User-Defined Keywords

  • Dicranopteris linearis
  • ICP-MS
  • Rare earth elements
  • REE-binding chlorophylls


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