C3 and C4 pathways photosynthetic pathways study material and notes with audio explanation
12th botany neet school

C3 and C4 pathways

C3 and C4 pathways

C3 and C4 pathways is explained in detail.

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It was once thought that all green plants fix CO2 through Calvin cycle only.

Now, we know that certain plants fix CO2 in a different photosynthetic mechanism called C4 pathway.

In this chapter, we will know more about this.

Hatch and Slack observed that 4C compounds such as oxaloaceticacid, malate and aspartate were the first formed compounds, when the leaves of sugarcane were exposed to 14CO2 for one second.

So, sugarcane is an example for C4 plant.

When the leaves of rice plant are exposed to 14CO2 3C compound called phosphoglyceric acid is formed.

So, rice plant is an example for C3 plant.

In C3 plants, photosynthesis occurs only in mesophyll cells.

We already learnt that photosynthesis has two types of reactions – light reactions and dark reactions (Calvin cycle).

In light reactions ATP and NADPH2 are produced and oxygen is released as a byproduct.

CO2 is reduced to carbohydrates by dark reactions.

In C3 plants both light reactions and dark reactions occur in mesophyll cells, whereas in C4 plants, the mechanism of photosynthesis requires two types of photosynthetic cells – mesophyll cells and bundle sheath cells.

The C4 plants contain dimorphic chloroplasts

i.e. chloroplasts in mesophyll cells are granal (with grana) whereas in bundle sheath chloroplasts are agranal (without grana).

The presence of two types of cells leads to segregation of photosynthetic work

i.e. light reactions and dark reactions separately.

Hatch-Slack pathway involves two carboxylation reactions.

C3 and C4 pathways

One takes place in chloroplasts of mesophyll cells and another in chloroplasts of bundle sheath cells.

1. The first step involves the carboxylation of phosphoenol pyruvic acid in the chloroplasts of mesophyll cells to form a 4C compound, oxaloacetic acid.

This reaction is catalysed by the enzyme phosphoenol pyruvate carboxylase

2. Oxaloacetic acid is converted into aspartic acid by the enzyme transaminase or it may be reduced to malic acid by NADP+ specific malate dehydrogenase.

3. Malic acid or aspartic acid formed in chloroplast of mesophyll cells is transferred to the chloroplasts of bundle sheath where it is decarboxylated to form CO2 and pyruvic acid in the presence of NADP+specific malic enzyme.

4. Now, second carboxylation occurs in chloroplasts of bundle sheath cells.

Ribulose bisphosphate accepts CO2 produced in step (3) in the presence of RuBP carboxylase and yields 3-phosphoglyceric acid.

Some of the 3-phosphoglyceric acid molecules are utilised to produce sucrose and starch, while remaining PGA molecules are used for the regeneration of RuBP.

5. The pyruvic acid produced in step (3) is transferred to the chloroplasts of mesophyll cells where it is phosphorylated to regenerate phosphoenolpyruvic acid .

This reaction is catalysed by pyruvate kinase in the presence of Mg 2+.

The AMP is phosphorylated by ATP in the presence of adenylate kinase to form 2 molecules of ADP.

C4 plants are photosynthetically more efficient than C3 plants, because the net requirement of ATP and NADPH2 for the fixation of one molecule of CO2 is considerably lower in C4 plants than in C3 plants.

Difference between C3 and C4 photosynthetic pathways

Diff b/w C3 and C4 pathways

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Other links 

Plant tissue culture – origin and techniques

Plant physiology – photosynthesis and its significance

Site of photosynthesis and Mechanism of photosynthesis

Electron transport system and photophosphorylation types

Dark reaction

Photorespiration or C2 cycle

Factors affecting photosynthesis

Test tube and funnel experiment, Ganong’s light screen experiment

Mode of nutrition – Autotrophic, Heterotrophic


Mechanism of Respiration – Glycolysis

Mechanism of Respiration – Oxidative decarboxylation , Krebs cycle

Mechanism of Respiration – Electron Transport Chain, Energy Yield

Ganong’s respiroscope, Pentose phosphate pathway

Anaerobic respiration, Respiratory quotient, Compensation point, Kuhne’s fermentation tube experiment

Plant growth and Measurement of plant growth

Phytohormones Auxins

Phytohormones Gibberellins

Phytohormones Cytokinin, Ethylene, Abscisic Acid, Growth Inhibitors – Physiological Effects

Photoperiodism and vernalization, Phytochromes and flowering


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