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Concept: Photosynthetic reaction centre


Porous silicon microcavity (PSiMc) structures were used to immobilize the photosynthetic reaction center (RC) purified from the purple bacterium Rhodobacter sphaeroides R-26. Two different binding methods were compared by specular reflectance measurements. Structural characterization of PSiMc was performed by scanning electron microscopy and atomic force microscopy. The activity of the immobilized RC was checked by measuring the visible absorption spectra of the externally added electron donor, mammalian cytochrome c. PSi/RC complex was found to oxidize the cytochrome c after every saturating Xe flash, indicating the accessibility of specific surface binding sites on the immobilized RC, for the external electron donor. This new type of bio-nanomaterial is considered as an excellent model for new generation applications of silicon-based electronics and biological redox systems.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Electron, Bacteria, Cellular respiration, Scanning tunneling microscope, Scanning electron microscope, Electron acceptor, Photosynthetic reaction centre


The primary electron donor (P) in the photosynthetic bacterial reaction center of Rhodobacter sphaeroides and Blastochloris viridis consists of a dimer of bacteriochlorophyll a and b cofactors, respectively. Its photoexcited triplet state in frozen solution has been investigated by time resolved ENDOR spectroscopy at 34 GHz. The observed ENDOR spectra for (3)P(865) and (3)P(960) are essentially the same, indicating very similar spin density distributions. Exceptions are the ethylidene groups unique to the bacteriochlorophyll b dimer in (3)P(960). Strikingly, the observed hyperfine coupling constants of the ethylidene groups are larger than in the monomer, which speaks for an asymmetrically delocalized wave function over both monomer halves in the dimer. The latter observation corroborates previous findings of the spin density in the radical cation states P (865) (•+) (Lendzian et al. in Biochim Biophys Acta 1183:139-160, 1993) and P (960) (•+) (Lendzian et al. in Chem Phys Lett 148:377-385, 1988). As compared to the bacteriochlorophyll monomer, the hyperfine coupling constants of the methyl groups 2(1) and 12(1) are reduced by at least a factor of two, and quantitative analysis of these couplings gives rise to a ratio of approximately 3:1 for the spin density on the halves P(L):P(M). Our findings are discussed in light of the large difference in photosynthetic activity of the two branches of cofactors present in the bacterial reaction center proteins.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Electron, Bacteria, Quantum mechanics, Fundamental physics concepts, Rubidium, Green sulfur bacteria, Photosynthetic reaction centre


During the last few years, intensive research efforts have been directed toward the application of several highly efficient light-harvesting photosynthetic proteins, including reaction centers (RCs), photosystem I (PSI), and photosystem II (PSII), as key components in the light-triggered generation of fuels or electrical power. This review highlights recent advances for the nano-engineering of photo-bioelectrochemical cells through the assembly of the photosynthetic proteins on electrode surfaces. Various strategies to immobilize the photosynthetic complexes on conductive surfaces and different methodologies to electrically wire them with the electrode supports are presented. The different photoelectrochemical systems exhibit a wide range of photocurrent intensities and power outputs that sharply depend on the nano-engineering strategy and the electroactive components. Such cells are promising candidates for a future production of biologically-driven solar power.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Electric charge, Michael Faraday, Electricity, Photosystem, Photosystem I, Photosystem II, Photosynthetic reaction centre


In the initial steps of photosynthesis, reaction centers convert solar energy to stable charge-separated states with near-unity quantum efficiency. The reaction center from purple bacteria remains an important model system for probing the structure-function relationship and understanding mechanisms of photosynthetic charge separation. Here we perform 2D electronic spectroscopy (2DES) on bacterial reaction centers (BRCs) from two mutants of the purple bacteriumRhodobacter capsulatus, spanning the Q y absorption bands of the BRC. We analyze the 2DES data using a multiexcitation global-fitting approach that employs a common set of basis spectra for all excitation frequencies, incorporating inputs from the linear absorption spectrum and the BRC structure. We extract the exciton energies, resolving the previously hidden upper exciton state of the special pair. We show that the time-dependent 2DES data are well-represented by a two-step sequential reaction scheme in which charge separation proceeds from the excited state of the special pair (P*) to P+HA-via the intermediate P+BA-When inhomogeneous broadening and Stark shifts of the B* band are taken into account we can adequately describe the 2DES data without the need to introduce a second charge-separation pathway originating from the excited state of the monomeric bacteriochlorophyll BA*.

Concepts: Cyanobacteria, Photosynthesis, Spectroscopy, Bacteria, Metabolism, Electromagnetic radiation, Excited state, Photosynthetic reaction centre


The photosynthetic reaction centre (RC) is central to the conversion of solar energy into chemical energy and is a model for bio-mimetic engineering approaches to this end. We describe bio-engineering of a Photosystem II (PSII) RC inspired peptide model, building on our earlier studies. A non-photosynthetic haem containing bacterioferritin (BFR) from Escherichia coli that expresses as a homodimer was used as a protein scaffold, incorporating redox-active cofactors mimicking those of PSII. Desirable properties include: a di-nuclear metal binding site which provides ligands for class II metals, a hydrophobic pocket at the dimer interface which can bind a photosensitive porphyrin and presence of tyrosine residues proximal to the bound cofactors, which can be utilised as efficient electron-tunnelling intermediates. Light-induced electron transfer from proximal tyrosine residues to the photo-oxidised ZnCe6(•+), in the modified BFR reconstituted with both ZnCe6 and Mn(II), is presented. Three site-specific tyrosine variants (Y25F, Y58F and Y45F) were made to localise the redox-active tyrosine in the engineered system. The results indicate that: presence of bound Mn(II) is necessary to observe tyrosine oxidation in all BFR variants; Y45 the most important tyrosine as an immediate electron donor to the oxidised ZnCe6(•+); and that Y25 and Y58 are both redox-active in this system, but appear to function interchangebaly. High-resolution (2.1Å) crystal structures of the tyrosine variants show that there are no mutation-induced effects on the overall 3-D structure of the protein. Small effects are observed in the Y45F variant. Here, the BFR-RC represents a protein model for artificial photosynthesis.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Carbon dioxide, Redox, Escherichia coli, Photosystem, Electron acceptor, Tyrosine, Photosynthetic reaction centre


The proliferation of phototrophy within early-branching prokaryotes represented a significant step forward in metabolic evolution. All available evidence supports the hypothesis that the photosynthetic reaction center (RC)-the pigment-protein complex in which electromagnetic energy (i.e., photons of visible or near-infrared light) is converted to chemical energy usable by an organism-arose once in Earth’s history. This event took place over 3 billion years ago and the basic architecture of the RC has diversified into the distinct versions that now exist. Using our recent 2.2-Å X-ray crystal structure of the homodimeric photosynthetic RC from heliobacteria, we have performed a robust comparison of all known RC types with available structural data. These comparisons have allowed us to generate hypotheses about structural and functional aspects of the common ancestors of extant RCs and to expand upon existing evolutionary schemes. Since the heliobacterial RC is homodimeric and loosely binds (and reduces) quinones, we support the view that it retains more ancestral features than its homologs from other groups. In the evolutionary scenario we propose, the ancestral RC predating the division between Type I and Type II RCs was homodimeric, loosely bound two mobile quinones, and performed an inefficient disproportionation reaction to reduce quinone to quinol. The changes leading to the diversification into Type I and Type II RCs were separate responses to the need to optimize this reaction: the Type I lineage added a [4Fe-4S] cluster to facilitate double reduction of a quinone, while the Type II lineage heterodimerized and specialized the two cofactor branches, fixing the quinone in the QAsite. After the Type I/II split, an ancestor to photosystem I fixed its quinone sites and then heterodimerized to bind PsaC as a new subunit, as responses to rising O2after the appearance of the oxygen-evolving complex in an ancestor of photosystem II. These pivotal events thus gave rise to the diversity that we observe today.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Evolution, Energy, Electromagnetic radiation, Photosystem, Light reactions, Common descent, Photosynthetic reaction centre


A structurally and compositionally well-defined and spectrally tunable artificial light-harvesting system has been constructed in which multiple organic dyes attached to a 3arm DNA nanostructure serve as an antenna conjugated to a photosynthetic reaction center isolated from Rhodobacter sphaeroides 2.4.1. The light energy absorbed by the dye molecules is transferred to the reaction center where charge separation takes place. The average number of DNA 3arm junctions per reaction center was tuned from 0.75 to 2.35. This DNA-templated multi-chromophore system serves as a modular light-harvesting antenna that is capable of being optimized for its spectral properties, energy transfer efficiency and photo-stability, allowing one to adjust both the size and spectrum of the resulting structures. This may serve as a useful test-bed for developing nanostructured photonic systems.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Electromagnetic radiation, System, Photosystem, Classical mechanics, Dye, Carbohydrate, Photosynthetic reaction centre


We describe a method to measure ultrafast protein structural changes using time-resolved wide-angle X-ray scattering at an X-ray free-electron laser. We demonstrated this approach using multiphoton excitation of the Blastochloris viridis photosynthetic reaction center, observing an ultrafast global conformational change that arises within picoseconds and precedes the propagation of heat through the protein. This provides direct structural evidence for a ‘protein quake’: the hypothesis that proteins rapidly dissipate energy through quake-like structural motions.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Metabolism, Laser, Tertiary structure, Photosystem, Photosynthetic reaction centre, Lasers, Free electron laser


Photosynthesis is responsible for the photochemical conversion of light into the chemical energy that fuels the planet Earth. The photochemical core of this process in all photosynthetic organisms is a transmembrane protein called the reaction center. In purple photosynthetic bacteria a simple version of this photoenzyme catalyzes the reduction of a quinone molecule, accompanied by the uptake of two protons from the cytoplasm. This results in the establishment of a proton concentration gradient across the lipid membrane, which can be ultimately harnessed to synthesize ATP. Herein we show that synthetic protocells, based on giant lipid vesicles embedding an oriented population of reaction centers, are capable of generating a photoinduced proton gradient across the membrane. Under continuous illumination, the protocells generate a gradient of 0.061 pH units per min, equivalent to a proton motive force of 3.6 mV⋅min(-1) Remarkably, the facile reconstitution of the photosynthetic reaction center in the artificial lipid membrane, obtained by the droplet transfer method, paves the way for the construction of novel and more functional protocells for synthetic biology.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Archaea, Metabolism, Cell membrane, Chemistry, Photosystem, Membrane protein, Photosynthetic reaction centre


Photosynthetic antenna systems enable organisms harvesting light and transfer the energy to the photosynthetic reaction centre, where the conversion to chemical energy takes place. One of the most complex antenna systems, the chlorosome, found in the photosynthetic green sulfur bacterium Chlorobaculum (Cba.) tepidum contains a baseplate, which is a scaffolding super-structure, formed by the protein CsmA and bacteriochlorophyll a. Here we present the first high-resolution structure of the CsmA baseplate using intact fully functional, light-harvesting organelles from Cba. tepidum, following a hybrid approach combining five complementary methods: solid-state NMR spectroscopy, cryo-electron microscopy, isotropic and anisotropic circular dichroism and linear dichroism. The structure calculation was facilitated through development of new software, GASyCS for efficient geometry optimization of highly symmetric oligomeric structures. We show that the baseplate is composed of rods of repeated dimers of the strongly amphipathic CsmA with pigments sandwiched within the dimer at the hydrophobic side of the helix.

Concepts: DNA, Photosynthesis, Protein, Cell, Bacteria, System, Green sulfur bacteria, Photosynthetic reaction centre