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organism that makes its own food using carbon from inorganic molecules such as CO2, and energy from the environment


organism that obtains energy and carbon from organic compounds assembled by other organisms


metabolic pathway by which most autotrophs capture light energy and use it to make sugars from CO2 and water.

Chlorophyll a

main photosynthetic pigment in plants


an organic molecule that can absorb light of certain wavelengths


distance between the crests of two successive waves of light


organelles specialized for photosynthesis in plants and some protists

light dependent reactions

first stage of photosynthesis; convert light energy to chemical energy of ATP and NADPH

light independent reactions

second stage of photosynthesis; use ADP and NADPH to assemble sugars from water and CO2


semi fluid matrix between the thylakoid membrane and the two outer membranes of the chloroplast

thylakoid membrane

A chloroplast's highly folded inner membrane system; forms a continuous compartment in the stroma

electron transfer phosphorylation

process in which electron flow through electron transfer chains sets up a hydrogen ion gradient that drives ATP formation


process by which light energy breaks down a molecule


cluster of pigments and proteins that converts light energy to chemical energy in photosynthesis

Calvin-Benson cycle

light independent reactions of photosynthesis; cyclic carbon fixing pathway that forms sugars from CO2.

Carbon fixation

process by which carbon from an inorganic source such as carbon dioxide gets incorporated into an organic molecule


Ribulose biphosphate carboxylase. Carbon fixing enzyme of the Calvin-Benson cycle.

C-3 plant

type of plant that uses only the Calvin Benson cycle to fix carbon

C4 plant

type of plant that minimizes photo restoration by fixing carbon twice, in two cell types

CAM plant

type of C4 plant that conserves water by fixing carbon twice, at different times of day.


reaction in which rubisco attaches oxygen instead of carbon dioxide to ribulose biphosphate


gaps that open on plant surfaces; allow water vapor and gases to diffuse across the epidermis.

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