Two enzyme systems have evolved for the reduction of linear tetrapyrroles: one family, found in plants, algae and cyanobacteria, uses ferredoxin and catalyses the reduction of the terminal pyrrole rings (A and D) and one of the vinyl side chains to form various light-harvesting and light-sensing chromophores. The other group (biliverdin reductases A and B) utilize NAD(P)H and catalyse reduction at C10 (hydride addition) to form the ‘bile’ pigments bilirubin-IXα and bilirubin-IX.

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