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Orientation of antenna protein in photosynthetic bacteria described
Date:4/2/2009

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Photosynthesis transforms light, carbon dioxide and water into chemical energy in plants and some bacteria. The wavelike characteristic of this energy transfer process can explain its extreme efficiency, in that vast areas of phase space can be sampled effectively to find the most efficient path for energy transfer. "We used a combination of tried and true methods, but two that hadn't been used together in the past," said Blankenship. "The surface of the protein has various amino acid residues, and some of those are reactive to the chemical probe we added into the system. The surface residues that react to the probe are then labeled, and we isolate the protein and characterize where the label is in the protein by using mass spectroscopy. That's a kind of footprinting analysis.'

This allowed the researchers to determine how the protein is oriented on the membrane. The footprinting revealed that the energy will flow from the outer part of the antenna, through the mid-part and into the membrane where the reaction center is located.

"The bacteria use the energy of the pigments as a kind of ladder," he said. "As it goes on this ladder, it goes to lower and lower energy states and is guided down to the lowest energy state. That's the funneling effect the physical guiding of the energy to the reaction center. By knowing exactly how this orientation is on the membrane, we determined the funneling property in a more precise ways."

The biochemical aspects of the project were done in the Blankenship lab, while the mass spectrometry analysis was done in the Washington University NIH Mass Spectrometry Resource Facility that is directed by Gross.

The trimeric protein the taco shell protein has a symmetry axis down the middle. The protein lays on the membrane with the symmetry axis perpendicular to the membrane. The combination of labeling and mass spectroscopy enabled the researchers to determine which side of the p
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Contact: Robert Blankenship
blankenship@wustl.edu
314-935-7971
Washington University in St. Louis
Source:Eurekalert

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