Significance of the Hill reaction

david walker david at
Tue Jul 31 11:26:19 EST 2001

Recently, on the Internet, I came across plaintive demands from students
wishing to know the significance of the Hill reaction. Seems that Nobel
laureate George Porter¹s view of this matter deserves a wider audience than
when it was  written in 1979. George Porter wrote:-

³Known universally today, except by its discoverer, as the Hill reaction,
this provided the all important route to the study of photosynthesis, if not
Œin vitro¹ at least without the complications of the whole living organism.
The production of oxygen from water, without the associated carbon dioxide
reduction, is the essential energy storage reaction of photosynthesis and
the way was now open for the elucidation of this process at the molecular
level. It was Hill who identified some of the principal performers in this
play of electrons; cytochromes f and b  and the ''methaemoglobin reducing
factor¹ which was, in fact, ferredoxin, the most powerful reducing agent
known in nature. After Emerson¹s discovery of the Œred drop¹ and its
interpretation in terms of two photosystems, Hill and Bendall, in 1960,
proposed their ŒZ-scheme¹ of photosynthetic electron transport. This
provided, and still provides today, the chart by which nearly all explorers
of photosynthesis navigate through the reefs of photosynthetic units, light
harvesting antennae, electron transport chains and the reaction centres of
photosystems I and II.²
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