C4 Carbon Fixation
C4 carbon fixation is one of three biochemical mechanisms, along with C3 and CAM photosynthesis, used in carbon fixation. It is named for the 4-carbon molecule present in the first product of carbon fixation in the small subset of plants known as C4 plants, in contrast to the 3-carbon molecule products in C3 plants.
C4 fixation is an elaboration of the more common C3 carbon fixation and is believed to have evolved more recently. C4 and CAM overcome the tendency of the enzyme RuBisCO to wastefully fix oxygen rather than carbon dioxide in what is called photorespiration. This is achieved by using a more efficient enzyme to fix CO2 in mesophyll cells and shuttling this fixed carbon via malate or asparate to bundle-sheath cells. In these bundle-sheath cells, RuBisCO is isolated from atmospheric oxygen and saturated with the CO2 released by decarboxylation of the malate or oxaloacetate. These additional steps, however, require more energy in the form of ATP. Because of this extra energy requirement, C4 plants are able to more efficiently fix carbon in only certain conditions, with the more common C3 pathway being more efficient in other conditions.