Our understanding of photosynthesis has been greatly advanced by the elucidation of the structure and function of the reaction center (RC), the membrane protein responsible for the initial light-induced charge separation in photosynthetic bacteria and green plants. Although today we know a great deal about the details of the primary processes in photosynthesis, little was known in the early days. George Feher made pioneering contributions to photosynthesis research in characterizing RCs from photosynthetic bacteria following the ground-breaking work of Lou Duysens and Rod Clayton (see articles in this issue by van Gorkom and Wraight). The work in his laboratory at the University of California, San Diego, started in the late 1960s and continued for over 30 years. He isolated a pure RC protein and used magnetic resonance spectroscopy to study the primary reactants. Following this pioneering work, Feher studied the detailed structure of the RC and the basic electron and proton transfer functions that it performs using a wide variety of biophysical and biochemical techniques. These studies, together with work from many other researchers, have led to our present detailed understanding of these proteins and their function in photosynthesis. The present article is a brief historical account of his pioneering contributions to photosynthesis research. A more detailed description of his work can be found in an earlier biographical paper (Feher in Photosynth Res 55:1–40, 1998a).
Secondary electron transfer in photosystem II (PSII), which occurs when water oxidation is inhibited, involves redox-active carotenoids (Car), as well as chlorophylls (Chl), and cytochrome b559 (Cyt b559), and is believed to play a role in photoprotection. CarD2 may be the initial point of secondary electron transfer because it is the closest cofactor to both P680, the initial oxidant, and to Cyt b559, the terminal secondary electron donor within PSII. In order to characterize the role of CarD2 and to determine the effects of perturbing CarD2 on both the electron-transfer events and on the identity of the redox-active cofactors, it is necessary to vary the properties of CarD2 selectively without affecting the ten other Car per PSII. To this end, site-directed mutations around the binding pocket of CarD2 (D2-G47W, D2-G47F, and D2-T50F) have been generated in Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. Characterization by near-IR and EPR spectroscopy provides the first experimental evidence that CarD2 is one of the redox-active carotenoids in PSII. There is a specific perturbation of the Car?+ near-IR spectrum in all three mutated PSII samples, allowing the assignment of the spectral signature of CarD2?+; CarD2?+ exhibits a near-IR peak at 980 nm and is the predominant secondary donor oxidized in a charge separation at low temperature in ferricyanide-treated wild-type PSII. The yield of secondary donor radicals is substantially decreased in PSII complexes isolated from each mutant. In addition, the kinetics of radical formation are altered in the mutated PSII samples. These results are consistent with oxidation of CarD2 being the initial step in secondary electron transfer. Furthermore, normal light levels during mutant cell growth perturb the shape of the Chl?+ near-IR absorption peak and generate a dark-stable radical observable in the EPR spectra, indicating a higher susceptibility to photodamage further linking the secondary electron-transfer pathway to photoprotection.
Heliobacteria contain a very simple photosynthetic apparatus, consisting of a homodimeric type I reaction center (RC) without a peripheral antenna system and using the unique pigment bacteriochlorophyll (BChl) g. They are thought to use a light-driven cyclic electron transport pathway to pump protons, and thereby phosphorylate ADP, although some of the details of this cycle are yet to be worked out. We previously reported that the fluorescence emission from the heliobacterial RC in vivo was increased by exposure to actinic light, although this variable fluorescence phenomenon exhibited very different characteristics to that in oxygenic phototrophs (Collins et al. 2010). Here, we describe the underlying mechanism behind the variable fluorescence in heliobacterial cells. We find that the ability to stably photobleach P800, the primary donor of the RC, using brief flashes is inversely correlated to the variable fluorescence. Using pump-probe spectroscopy in the nanosecond timescale, we found that illumination of cells with bright light for a few seconds put them in a state in which a significant fraction of the RCs underwent charge recombination from P800+A0? with a time constant of ~20 ns. The fraction of RCs in the rapidly back-reacting state correlated very well with the variable fluorescence, indicating that nearly all of the increase in fluorescence could be explained by charge recombination of P800+A0?, some of which regenerated the singlet excited state. This hypothesis was tested directly by time-resolved fluorescence studies in the ps and ns timescales. The major decay component in whole cells had a 20-ps decay time, representing trapping by the RC. Treatment of cells with dithionite resulted in the appearance of a ~18-ns decay component, which accounted for ~0.6 % of the decay, but was almost undetectable in the untreated cells. We conclude that strong illumination of heliobacterial cells can result in saturation of the electron acceptor pool, leading to reduction of the acceptor side of the RC and the creation of a back-reacting RC state that gives rise to delayed fluorescence.
Illumination of intact cells of Rhodobacter sphaeroides under anaerobic conditions has a dual effect on the redox state of the quinone pool. A large oxidation of the quinone pool is observed during the first seconds following the illumination. This oxidation is suppressed by the addition of an uncoupler in agreement with a light-induced reverse electron transfer at the level of the complex I, present both in the non-invaginated part of the membrane and in the chromatophores. At longer dark times, this illumination increases the reducing power of the cells leading to a significant reduction of the others reaction centers (RCs). From the observation that a significant proportion of RCs could be reduced by the preillumination without affecting the numbers of charge separation for the RCs, we conclude that there is no rapid thermodynamic equilibrium between the quinones present in the non-invaginated part of the membrane and those localized in the chromatophores. Under anaerobic conditions where the chromatophores quinone pool is fully reduced, we deduce, on the basis of flash-induced fluorescence kinetics, that the reduced RCs are exclusively reoxidized by the quinone generated at the Qo site of the cyt bc1 complex. The supramolecular association between a dimeric RC-LHI complex and one cyt bc1 complex allows the confinement of a quinone between the RC-LHI directly associated to the cyt bc1 complex.
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.
The electronic structure of a Mn(II) ion bound to highly oxidizing reaction centers of Rhodobacter sphaeroides was studied in a mutant modified to possess a metal binding site at a location comparable to the Mn4Ca cluster of photosystem II. The Mn-binding site of the previously described mutant, M2, contains three carboxylates and one His at the binding site (Thielges et al., Biochemistry 44:389–7394, 2005). The redox-active Mn-cofactor was characterized using electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) and electron spin echo envelope modulation (ESEEM) spectroscopies. In the light without bound metal, the Mn-binding mutants showed an EPR spectrum characteristic of the oxidized bacteriochlorophyll dimer and reduced quinone whose intensity was significantly reduced due to the diminished quantum yield of charge separation in the mutant compared to wild type. In the presence of the metal and in the dark, the EPR spectrum measured at the X-band frequency of 9.4 GHz showed a distinctive spin 5/2 Mn(II) signal consisting of 16 lines associated with both allowed and forbidden transitions. Upon illumination, the amplitude of the spectrum is decreased by over 80 % due to oxidation of the metal upon electron transfer to the oxidized bacteriochlorophyll dimer. The EPR spectrum of the Mn-cofactor was also measured at the Q-band frequency of 34 GHz and was better resolved as the signal was composed of the six allowed electronic transitions with only minor contributions from other transitions. A fit of the Q-band EPR spectrum shows that the Mn-cofactor is a high spin Mn(II) species (S = 5/2) that is six-coordinated with an isotropic g-value of 2.0006, a weak zero-field splitting and E/D ratio of approximately 1/3. The ESEEM experiments showed the presence of one 14N coordinating the Mn-cofactor. The nitrogen atom is assigned to a His by comparing our ESEEM results to those previously reported for Mn(II) ions bound to other proteins and on the basis of the X-ray structure of the M2 mutant that shows the presence of only one His, residue M193, that can coordinate the Mn-cofactor. Together, the data allow the electronic structure and coordination environment of the designed Mn-cofactor in the modified reaction centers to be characterized in detail and compared to those observed in other proteins with Mn-cofactors.
Femtosecond time-resolved transient absorption spectroscopy was performed on the chlorophyll a–chlorophyll c2–peridinin-protein-complex (acpPC), a major light-harvesting complex of the coral symbiotic dinoflagellate Symbiodinium. The measurements were carried out on the protein as well on the isolated pigments in the visible and the near-infrared region at 77 K. The data were globally fit to establish inter-pigment energy transfer paths within the scaffold of the complex. In addition, microsecond flash photolysis analysis was applied to reveal photoprotective capabilities of carotenoids (peridinin and diadinoxanthin) in the complex, especially the ability to quench chlorophyll a triplet states. The results demonstrate that the majority of carotenoids and other accessory light absorbers such as chlorophyll c2 are very well suited to support chlorophyll a in light harvesting. However, their performance in photoprotection in the acpPC is questionable. This is unusual among carotenoid-containing light-harvesting proteins and may explain the low resistance of the acpPC complex against photoinduced damage under even moderate light conditions.
This Special Issue of Photosynthesis Research honors Louis M. N. Duysens, Roderick K. Clayton, and George Feher, three pioneering researchers whose work on bacterial photosynthesis laid much of the groundwork for our understanding of the role of the reaction center in photosynthetic light energy conversion. Their key discoveries are briefly summarized and an overview of the special issue is presented.
Roderick K. Clayton passed away on October 23, 2011, at the age of 89, shortly after the plan for this dedicatory issue of Photosynthesis Research had been hatched. I had just written a lengthy letter to him to re-establish contact after a hiatus of 2 or 3 years, and to suggest that I visit him to talk about his life. It isn’t clear whether he saw the letter or not, but it was found at his home in Santa Rosa, California. Fortunately, Rod has written two memoirs for Photosynthesis Research that not only cover much of his research on reaction centers (Photosynth Res 73:63–71, 2002) but also provide a humorous and honest look at his personal life (Photosynth Res 19:207–224, 1988). I cannot hope to improve on these and will try, instead, to fill in some of the gaps that Rod’s own writing has left, and offer some of my own personal recollections over the more recent years.
Molecular interactions of the three plastoquinone electron acceptors, QA, QB, and QC, in photosystem II (PSII) were studied by fragment molecular orbital (FMO) calculations. Calculations at the FMO-MP2/6-31G level using PSII models deduced from the X-ray structure of the PSII complexes from Thermosynechococcus elongatus provided the binding energies of QA, QB, and QC as ?56.1, ?37.9, and ?30.1 kcal/mol, respectively. The interaction energies with surrounding fragments showed that the contributions of lipids and cofactors were 0, 24 and 45 % of the total interaction energies for QA, QB, and QC, respectively. These results are consistent with the fact that QA is strongly bound to the PSII protein, whereas QB functions as a substrate and is exchangeable with other quinones and herbicides, and the presence of QC is highly dependent on PSII preparations. It was further shown that the isoprenoid tail is more responsible for the binding than the head group in all the three quinones, and that dispersion forces rather than electrostatic interactions mainly contribute to the stabilization. The relevance of the stability and molecular interactions of QA, QB, and QC to their physiological functions is discussed.
This review presents a broad overview of the research that enabled the structure determination of the bacterial reaction centers from Blastochloris viridis and Rhodobacter sphaeroides, with a focus on the contributions from Duysens, Clayton, and Feher. Early experiments performed in the laboratory of Duysens and others demonstrated the utility of spectroscopic techniques and the presence of photosynthetic complexes in both oxygenic and anoxygenic photosynthesis. The laboratories of Clayton and Feher led efforts to isolate and characterize the bacterial reaction centers. The availability of well-characterized preparations of pure and stable reaction centers allowed the crystallization and subsequent determination of the structures using X-ray diffraction. The three-dimensional structures of reaction centers revealed an overall arrangement of two symmetrical branches of cofactors surrounded by transmembrane helices from the L and M subunits, which also are related by the same twofold symmetry axis. The structure has served as a framework to address several issues concerning bacterial photosynthesis, including the directionality of electron transfer, the properties of the reaction center-cytochrome c2 complex, and the coupling of proton and electron transfer. Together, these research efforts laid the foundation for ongoing efforts to address an outstanding question in oxygenic photosynthesis, namely the molecular mechanism of water oxidation.
A new gene expression system was developed in Rhodobacter sphaeroides, replacing a pRK415-based system used previously. The broad host-range IPTG-inducible plasmid pIND4 was used to create the plasmid pIND4-RC1 for expression of the puhA and pufQBALMX genes, encoding the reaction centre (RC) and light-harvesting complex 1 (LH1) proteins. The strain R. sphaeroides ?RCLH was used to make a knockout of the rshI restriction endonuclease gene, enabling electroporation of DNA into the bacterium; a subsequent knockout of ppsR was made, creating the strain R. sphaeroides RCx lacking this oxygen-sensing repressor of the photosynthesis gene cluster. Using pIND4-RC1, LH1 levels were increased by a factor of about 8 over pRS1 per cell in cultures grown semi-aerobically. In addition, the ppsR knockout allowed for photosynthetic pigment–protein complex synthesis in the presence of high concentrations of molecular oxygen; here, LH1 levels per cell increased by 20 % when grown under high aeration conditions. A new medium (called RLB) is the E. coli medium LB supplemented with MgCl2 and CaCl2, which was found to increase growth rates and final cell culture densities, with an increase of 30 % of LH1 per cell detected in R. sphaeroides RCx(pIND4-RC1) grown in RLB versus LB medium. Furthermore, cell density was about three times greater in RLB compared to semi-aerobic conditions. The combination of all the modifications resulted in an increase of LH1 and RC per mL of culture volume by approximately 35-fold, and a decrease in the length of culture incubation time from about 5 days to ~36 h.
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 3P865 and 3P960 are essentially the same, indicating very similar spin density distributions. Exceptions are the ethylidene groups unique to the bacteriochlorophyll b dimer in 3P960. 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 P865•+ (Lendzian et al. in Biochim Biophys Acta 1183:139–160, 1993) and P960•+ (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 21 and 121 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 PL:PM. 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.
Direct protein film voltammetry (PFV) was used to investigate the redox properties of the photosystem II (PSII) core complex from spinach. The complex was isolated using an improved protocol not used previously for PFV. The PSII core complex had high oxygen-evolving capacity and was incorporated into thin lipid and polyion films. Three well-defined reversible pairs of reduction and oxidation voltammetry peaks were observed at 4 °C in the dark. Results were similar in both types of films, indicating that the environment of the PSII-bound cofactors was not influenced by film type. Based on comparison with various control samples including Mn-depleted PSII, peaks were assigned to chlorophyll a (Chl a) (Em = ?0.47 V, all vs. NHE, at pH 6), quinones (?0.12 V), and the manganese (Mn) cluster (Em = 0.18 V). PFV of purified iron heme protein cytochrome b-559 (Cyt b-559), a component of PSII, gave a partly reversible peak pair at 0.004 V that did not have a potential similar to any peaks observed from the intact PSII core complex. The closest peak in PSII to 0.004 V is the 0.18 V peak that was found to be associated with a two-electron process, and thus is inconsistent with iron heme protein voltammetry. The ?0.47 V peak had a peak potential and peak potential-pH dependence similar to that found for purified Chl a incorporated into DMPC films. The midpoint potentials reported here may differ to various extents from previously reported redox titration data due to the influence of electrode double-layer effects. Heterogeneous electron transfer (hET) rate constants were estimated by theoretical fitting and digital simulations for the ?0.47 and 0.18 V peaks. Data for the Chl a peaks were best fit to a one-electron model, while the peak assigned to the Mn cluster was best fit by a two-electron/one-proton model.
Electron transfer pathways in photosynthesis involve interactions between membrane-bound complexes such as reaction centres with an extrinsic partner. In this study, the biological specificity of electron transfer between the reaction centre-light-harvesting 1-PufX complex and its extrinsic electron donor, cytochrome c2, formed the basis for mapping the location of surface-attached RC-LH1-PufX complexes using atomic force microscopy (AFM). This nano-mechanical mapping method used an AFM probe functionalised with cyt c2 molecules to quantify the interaction forces involved, at the single-molecule level under native conditions. With surface-bound RC-His12-LH1-PufX complexes in the photo-oxidised state, the mean interaction force with cyt c2 is approximately 480 pN with an interaction frequency of around 66 %. The latter value lowered 5.5-fold when chemically reduced RC-His12-LH1-PufX complexes are imaged in the dark to abolish electron transfer from cyt c2 to the RC. The correspondence between topographic and adhesion images recorded over the same area of the sample shows that affinity-based AFM methods are a useful tool when topology alone is insufficient for spatially locating proteins at the surface of photosynthetic membranes.
Chlorophyll a fluorescence is a non-invasive tool widely used in photosynthesis research. According to the dominant interpretation, based on the model proposed by Duysens and Sweers (1963, Special Issue of Plant and Cell Physiology, pp 353–372), the fluorescence changes reflect primarily changes in the redox state of QA, the primary quinone electron acceptor of photosystem II (PSII). While it is clearly successful in monitoring the photochemical activity of PSII, a number of important observations cannot be explained within the framework of this simple model. Alternative interpretations have been proposed but were not supported satisfactorily by experimental data. In this review we concentrate on the processes determining the fluorescence rise on a dark-to-light transition and critically analyze the experimental data and the existing models. Recent experiments have provided additional evidence for the involvement of a second process influencing the fluorescence rise once QA is reduced. These observations are best explained by a light-induced conformational change, the focal point of our review. We also want to emphasize that—based on the presently available experimental findings—conclusions on ?/ß-centers, PSII connectivity, and the assignment of FV/FM to the maximum PSII quantum yield may require critical re-evaluations. At the same time, it has to be emphasized that for a deeper understanding of the underlying physical mechanism(s) systematic studies on light-induced changes in the structure and reaction kinetics of the PSII reaction center are required.
Purple, photosynthetic reaction centers from Rhodobacter sphaeroides bacteria use ubiquinone (UQ10) as both primary (QA) and secondary (QB) electron acceptors. Many quinones reconstitute QA function, while a few will act as QB. Nine quinones were tested for their ability to bind and reconstitute QA and QB functions. Only ubiquinone (UQ) reconstitutes both functions in the same protein. The affinities of the non-native quinones for the QB site were determined by a competitive inhibition assay. The affinities of benzoquinones, naphthoquinone (NQ), and 2-methyl-NQ for the QB site are 7 ± 3 times weaker than that at QA site. However, di-ortho-substituted NQs and anthraquinone bind tightly to the QA site (Kd ? 200 nM), and ?1,000 times more weakly to the QB site, perhaps setting a limit on the size of the site. With a low-potential electron donor, 2-methyl, 3-dimethylamino-1,4-NQ, (Me-diMeAm-NQ) at QA, QB reduction is 260 meV, more favorable than with UQ as QA. Electron transfer from Me-diMeAm-NQ at the QA site to NQ at the QB site can be detected. In the QB site, the NQ semiquinone is estimated to be ?60–100 meV higher in energy than the UQ semiquinone, while in the QA site, the semiquinone energy level is similar or lower with NQ than with UQ. Thus, the NQ semiquinone is more stable in the QA than in the QB site. In contrast, the native UQ semiquinone is ?60 meV lower in energy in the QB than in the QA site, stabilizing forward electron transfer from QA to QB.
Capturing and converting solar energy via artificial photosynthesis offers an ideal way to limit society’s dependence on fossil fuel and its myriad consequences. The development and study of molecular artificial photosynthetic reactions centers and antenna complexes and the combination of these constructs with catalysts to drive the photochemical production of a fuel helps to build the understanding needed for development of future scalable technologies. This review focuses on the study of molecular complexes, design of which is inspired by the components of natural photosynthesis, and covers research from early triad reaction centers developed by the group of Gust, Moore, and Moore to recent photoelectrochemical systems capable of using light to convert water to oxygen and hydrogen.
Posted on 1 May 2014 | 2:00 am
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