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Revealing linear aggregates of light harvesting antenna proteins in photosynthetic membranes

Revealing linear aggregates of light harvesting antenna proteins in photosynthetic membranes

Langmuir 26(1): 307-313

How light energy is harvested in a natural photosynthetic membrane through energy transfer is closely related to the stoichiometry and arrangement of light harvesting antenna proteins in the membrane. The specific photosynthetic architecture facilitates a rapid and efficient energy transfer among the light harvesting proteins (LH2 and LH1) and to the reaction center. Here we report the identification of linear aggregates of light harvesting proteins, LH2, in the photosynthetic membranes under ambient conditions by using atomic force microscopy (AFM) imaging and spectroscopic analysis. Our results suggest that the light harvesting protein, LH2, can exist as linear aggregates of 4 +/- 2 proteins in the photosynthetic membranes and that the protein distributions are highly heterogeneous. In the photosynthetic membranes examined in our measurements, the ratio of the aggregated to the nonaggregated LH2 proteins is about 3:1 to 5:1 depending on the intensity of the illumination used during sample incubation and on the bacterial species. AFM images further identify that the LH2 proteins in the linear aggregates are monotonically tilted at an angle 4 +/- 2 degrees from the plane of the photosynthetic membranes. The aggregates result in red-shifted absorption and emission spectra that are measured using various mutant membranes, including an LH2 knockout, LH1 knockout, and LH2 at different population densities. Measuring the fluorescence lifetimes of purified LH2 and LH2 in membranes, we have observed that the LH2 proteins in membranes exhibit biexponential lifetime decays whereas the purified LH2 proteins gave single exponential lifetime decays. We attribute that the two lifetime components originate from the existence of both aggregated and nonaggregated LH2 proteins in the photosynthetic membranes.

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Accession: 055554782

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PMID: 19572507

DOI: 10.1021/la9012262

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