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tasting chlorophyll

Interim Dean Berg sberg at VAX2.WINONA.MSUS.EDU
Thu Feb 22 15:52:47 EST 1996

As we all know, in higher plant chlorophyll is exclusively associated with
intrinsic protein complexes (photosystems I and II) in the thylakoid
membranes of the chloroplast.  Hence very little if any chlorophyll is
exposed at the surface of the membrane.  If one briefly homogenizes green
tissues (spinach leaves) one is left with a dark green suspension.
Centrifugation of the suspension yields a clear and relatively colorless
supernatant.   All the green color precipitates with the broken thylakoid
membranes.  Hence, there is essentially no chlorophyll in solution, all the
chlorophyll remains deeply buried in the thylakoid membrane.  Thus, I would
suggest that it is rather unlikely that what one tastes when chewing on
leaves is chlorophyll.

Of course, we could do an experiment.  We could extract thylakoids with a
low toxicity solvent like the 95% azeotrope of ethanol and compare the
"flavor" or green or clear straight alcohol (I think alcohol is supposed to
be tasteless). 

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