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A Comparison of Chemiosmosis in Chloroplasts and Mitochondria

Chloroplasts and mitochondria generate ATP by the same basic mechanism: chemiosmosis. An electron
transport chain assembled in a membrane pumps protons across the membrane as electrons are passed
through a series of carriers that are progressively more electronegative. In this way, electron transport
chains transform redox energy to a protonmotive force, potential energy stored in the form of an !

gradient across a membrane. #uilt into the same membrane is an ATP synthase complex that couples the
diffusion of hydrogen ions down their gradient to the phosphorylation of A$P. %ome of the electron
carriers, including the ironcontaining proteins called cytochromes, are very similar in chloroplasts and
mitochondria. The ATP synthase complexes of the two organelles are also very much ali&e. #ut there are
noteworthy differences between oxidative phosphorylation in mitochondria and photophosphorylation in
chloroplasts. In mitochondria, the highenergy electrons dropped down the transport chain are extracted
from food molecules 'which are thus oxidi(ed). Chloroplasts do not need food to ma&e ATP* their
photosystems capture light energy and use it to drive electrons to the top of the transport chain. In other
words, mitochondria transfer chemical energy from food molecules to ATP, whereas chloroplasts
transform light energy into chemical energy.
The spatial organi(ation of chemiosmosis also differs in chloroplasts and mitochondria '+I,-./ 01.02).
The inner membrane of the mitochondrion pumps protons from the mitochondrial matrix out to the
intermembrane space, which then serves as a reservoir of hydrogen ions that powers the ATP synthase.
The thyla&oid membrane of the chloroplast pumps protons from the stroma into the thyla&oid space,
which functions as the !
reservoir. The thyla&oid membrane ma&es ATP as the hydrogen ions diffuse
from the thyla&oid space bac& to the stroma through ATP synthase complexes, whose catalytic &nobs are
on the stroma side of the membrane. Thus, ATP forms in the stroma, where it is used to help drive sugar
synthesis during the Calvin cycle.
Fig 10-15. Comparison of chemiosmosis in mitochondria and chloroplasts. In both &inds of organelles,
electron transport chains pump protons '!
) across a membrane from a region of low !
'light brown in this diagram) to one of high !
concentration 'dar&er brown). The protons then diffuse
bac& across the membrane through ATP synthase, driving the synthesis of ATP. The diagram identifies
the regions of high and low !
concentration in the two organelles.
The proton gradient, or p! gradient, across the thyla&oid membrane is substantial. 3hen chloroplasts are
illuminated, the p! in the thyla&oid space drops to about 2, and the p! in the stroma increases to about 4.
This gradient of three p! units corresponds to a thousandfold difference in !
concentration. If in the
laboratory the lights are turned off, the p! gradient is abolished, but it can 5uic&ly be restored by turning
the lights bac& on. %uch experiments add to the evidence described in Chapter 6 in support of the
chemiosmotic model.
The inner membrane of the mitochondrion pumps protons '!
) from the matrix into the intermembrane space 'dar&er brown). ATP is made on
the matrix side of the membrane as hydrogen ions diffuse through ATP synthase complexes. In chloroplasts, the thyla&oid membrane pumps
protons form the stroma into the thyla&oid compartment. As the hydrogen ions lea& bac& across the membrane through the ATP synthase,
phosphorylation of A$P occurs on the stroma side of the membrane.