Saturday, May 26, 2007

Biodesign Institute scientists offer new view of photosynthesis

A research team led by Neal Woodbury, at ASU's Biodesign Institute, has come up with a new insight into the mechanism of photosynthesis, which involves the orchestrated movement of proteins on the timescale of a millionth of a millionth of a second. Their findings are described in in the May 4 issue of Science, "Protein Dynamics Control the Kinetics of Initial Electron Transfer in Photosynthesis."

During photosynthesis, plants are capable of scavenging nearly every photon of available light energy to produce food. In order to examine the processes involved in photosynthesis, Dr Woodbury’s team used the earliest photosynthetic bacteria to evolve called Rhodobacter sphaeroides and created mutants that allowed them to uncover more of the physical mechanism driving photosynthesis and theoretically tweak the electron transfer relationships between molecules in the reaction center. The reaction center is where light energy is funneled into specialized chlorophyll binding proteins that form a scaffold, holding chlorophyll molecules at a highly optimized distances and orientations so that electrons can hop from one chlorophyll to another.

The research team includes lead author Haiyu Wang, Biodesign Institute; Su Lin, Biodesign Institute; James Allen, ASU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; JoAnn Williams, ASU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; Sean Blankert and Christa Laser, Biodesign Institute.

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