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Concept: Photosystem I


The effects of exposure to increasing manganese concentrations (50-1500 µM) from the start of the experiment on the functional performance of photosystem II (PSII) and photosystem I (PSI) and photosynthetic apparatus composition of Arabidopsis thaliana were compared. In agreement with earlier studies, excess Mn caused minimal changes in the PSII photochemical efficiency measured as F(v)/F(m), although the characteristic peak temperature of the S(2/3)Q(B)(-) charge recombinations was shifted to lower temperatures at the highest Mn concentration. SDS-PAGE and immunoblot analyses also did not exhibit any significant change in the relative abundance of PSII-associated polypeptides: PSII reaction centre protein D1, Lhcb1 (major light-harvesting protein of LHCII complex), and PsbO (OEC33, a 33kDa protein of the oxygen-evolving complex). In addition, the abundance of Rubisco also did not change with Mn treatments. However, plants grown under excess Mn exhibited increased susceptibility to PSII photoinhibition. In contrast, in vivo measurements of the redox transients of PSI reaction centre (P700) showed a considerable gradual decrease in the extent of P700 photooxidation (P700(+)) under increased Mn concentrations compared to control. This was accompanied by a slower rate of P700(+) re-reduction indicating a downregulation of the PSI-dependent cyclic electron flow. The abundance of PSI reaction centre polypeptides (PsaA and PsaB) in plants under the highest Mn concentration was also significantly lower compared to the control. The results demonstrate for the first time that PSI is the major target of Mn toxicity within the photosynthetic apparatus of Arabidopsis plants. The possible involvement mechanisms of Mn toxicity targeting specifically PSI are discussed.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Arabidopsis, Photosystem, Light reactions, Photosystem I, Photosystem II, Oxygen evolution, Light-dependent reactions


Recent structural determinations and metagenomic studies shed light on the evolution of photosystem I (PSI) from the homodimeric reaction centre of primitive bacteria to plant PSI at the top of the evolutionary development. The evolutionary scenario of over 3.5 billion years reveals an increase in the complexity of PSI. This phenomenon of ever-increasing complexity is common to all evolutionary processes that in their advanced stages are highly dependent on fine-tuning of regulatory processes. On the other hand, the recently discovered virus-encoded PSI complexes contain a minimal number of subunits. This may reflect the unique selection scenarios associated with viral replication. It may be beneficial for future engineering of productive processes to utilize ‘primitive’ complexes that disregard the cellular regulatory processes and to avoid those regulatory constraints when our goal is to divert the process from its original route. In this article, we discuss the evolutionary forces that act on viral reaction centres and the role of the virus-carried photosynthetic genes in the evolution of photosynthesis.

Concepts: Cyanobacteria, Photosynthesis, Archaea, Bacteria, Evolution, Life, Photosystem, Photosystem I


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


Photosystem 1 (PS1) triggers the most energetic light-induced charge-separation step in nature and the in vivo electron-transfer rates approach 50 e(-)  s(-1)  PS1(-1) . Photoelectrochemical devices based on this building block have to date underperformed with respect to their semiconductor counterparts or to natural photosynthesis in terms of electron-transfer rates. We present a rational design of a redox hydrogel film to contact PS1 to an electrode for photocurrent generation. We exploit the pH-dependent properties of a poly(vinyl)imidazole Os(bispyridine)2 Cl polymer to tune the redox hydrogel film for maximum electron-transfer rates under optimal conditions for PS1 activity. The PS1-containing redox hydrogel film displays electron-transfer rates of up to 335±14 e(-)  s(-1)  PS1(-1) , which considerably exceeds the rates observed in natural photosynthesis or in other semiartificial systems. Under O2 supersaturation, photocurrents of 322±19 μA cm(-2) were achieved. The photocurrents are only limited by mass transport of the terminal electron acceptor (O2 ). This implies that even higher electron-transfer rates may be achieved with PS1-based systems in general.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Redox, Electrochemistry, Cellular respiration, Photosystem, Photosystem I, Nature, Electron acceptor


Photosynthetic organisms cope with changes in light quality by balancing the excitation energy flow between photosystems I (PSI) and II (PSII) through a process called state transitions. Energy redistribution has been suggested to be achieved by movement of the light-harvesting phycobilisome between PSI and PSII, or by nanometre scale rearrangements of the recently discovered PBS-PSII-PSI megacomplexes. The alternative ‘spillover’ model, on the other hand, states that energy redistribution is achieved by mutual association/dissociation of PSI and PSII. State transitions have always been studied by changing the redox state of the electron carriers using electron transfer inhibitors, or by applying illumination conditions with different colours. However, the molecular events during natural dark-to-light transitions in cyanobacteria have largely been overlooked and still remain elusive. Here we investigated changes in excitation energy transfer from phycobilisomes to the photosystems upon dark-light transitions, using picosecond fluorescence spectroscopy. It appears that megacomplexes are not involved in these changes, and neither does spillover play a role. Instead, the phycobilisomes partly energetically uncouple from PSI in the light but hardly couple to PSII.

Concepts: Cyanobacteria, Photosynthesis, Electron, Light, Redox, Photosystem, Photosystem I, Phycobilisome


Z-Scheme on wires: The two photosystems of the natural photosynthetic Z-scheme have been connected by immobilizing them within redox hydrogels on individual electrodes. Upon irradiation, this biophotovoltaic device produced photocurrents as a closed and autonomous system. The open-circuit voltage of the cell corresponds to the potential difference between the two redox hydrogels and indicates the coupling of the two charge separation steps.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Electric potential, Electrochemistry, Photosystem, Photosystem I, Electrochemical cell, Topological space, Volt


Upon transition of plants from darkness to light the initiation of photosynthetic linear electron transfer (LET) from H2O to NADP+ precedes the activation of CO2 fixation, creating a lag period where cyclic electron transfer (CET) around photosystem I (PSI) has an important protective role. CET generates ΔpH without net reduced NADPH formation, preventing overreduction of PSI via regulation of the cytochrome b 6 f (cytb 6 f) complex and protecting PSII from overexcitation by inducing non-photochemical quenching. The dark-to-light transition also provokes increased phosphorylation of light-harvesting complex II (LHCII). However, the relationship between LHCII phosphorylation and regulation of the LET/CET balance is not understood. Here, we show that the dark-to-light changes in LHCII phosphorylation profoundly alter thylakoid membrane architecture and the macromolecular organization of the photosynthetic complexes, without significantly affecting the antenna size of either photosystem. The grana diameter and number of membrane layers per grana are decreased in the light while the number of grana per chloroplast is increased, creating a larger contact area between grana and stromal lamellae. We show that these changes in thylakoid stacking regulate the balance between LET and CET pathways. Smaller grana promote more efficient LET by reducing the diffusion distance for the mobile electron carriers plastoquinone and plastocyanin, whereas larger grana enhance the partition of the granal and stromal lamellae plastoquinone pools, enhancing the efficiency of CET and thus photoprotection by non-photochemical quenching.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Electron, Carbon dioxide, Redox, Calvin cycle, Photosystem I, Electron transport chain, Thylakoid


In oxygenic photosynthesis the initial photochemical processes are carried out by photosystem I (PSI) and II (PSII). Although subunit composition varies between cyanobacterial and plastid photosystems, the core structures of PSI and PSII are conserved throughout photosynthetic eukaryotes. So far, the photosynthetic complexes have been characterised in only a small number of organisms. We performed in silico and biochemical studies to explore the organization and evolution of the photosynthetic apparatus in the chromerids Chromera velia and Vitrella brassicaformis, autotrophic relatives of apicomplexans. We catalogued the presence and location of genes coding for conserved subunits of the photosystems as well as cytochrome b6f and ATP synthase in chromerids and other phototrophs and performed a phylogenetic analysis. We then characterised the photosynthetic complexes of Chromera and Vitrella using 2D gels combined with mass-spectrometry and further analysed the purified Chromera PSI. Our data suggest that the photosynthetic apparatus of chromerids underwent unique structural changes. Both photosystems (as well as cytochrome b6f and ATP synthase) lost several canonical subunits, while PSI gained one superoxide dismutase (Vitrella) or two superoxide dismutases and several unknown proteins (Chromera) as new regular subunits. We discuss these results in light of the extraordinarily efficient photosynthetic processes described in Chromera.

Concepts: Algae, Cyanobacteria, Photosynthesis, Organism, Plant, Photosystem, Plastocyanin, Photosystem I


The discovery of the chlorophyll d-containing cyanobacterium Acaryochloris marina in 1996 precipitated a shift in our understanding of oxygenic photosynthesis. The presence of the red-shifted chlorophyll d in the reaction centre of the photosystems of Acaryochloris has opened up new avenues of research on photosystem energetics and challenged the unique status of chlorophyll a in oxygenic photosynthesis. In this review, we detail the chemistry and role of chlorophyll d in photosynthesis and summarise the unique adaptations that have allowed the proliferation of Acaryochloris in diverse ecological niches around the world.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Oxygen, Photosystem, Photosystem I, Chlorophyll


We studied the interactive effects of pCO(2) and growth light on the coastal marine diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana CCMP 1335 growing under ambient and expected end-of-the-century pCO(2) (750 ppmv), and a range of growth light from 30 to 380 µmol photons·m(-2)·s(-1). Elevated pCO(2) significantly stimulated the growth of T. pseudonana under sub-saturating growth light, but not under saturating to super-saturating growth light. Under ambient pCO(2) susceptibility to photoinactivation of photosystem II (σ(i)) increased with increasing growth rate, but cells growing under elevated pCO(2) showed no dependence between growth rate and σ(i), so under high growth light cells under elevated pCO(2) were less susceptible to photoinactivation of photosystem II, and thus incurred a lower running cost to maintain photosystem II function. Growth light altered the contents of RbcL (RUBISCO) and PsaC (PSI) protein subunits, and the ratios among the subunits, but there were only limited effects on these and other protein pools between cells grown under ambient and elevated pCO(2).

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Protein, Photosystem, Photosystem I, Protein subunit, Diatom, Photosystem II, RuBisCO