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Pliable proteins keep photosynthesis on the light path
Date:5/11/2009

had previously demonstrated that the movement of the reaction center proteins during photosynthesis facilitates the light-driven movement of electrons between molecules in the reaction center, helping the plant or bacteria to harness light energy efficiently even if conditions aren't optimal. Every time the team introduced disruptions into this electron pathway, the proteins were able to compensate by moving and energetically guiding the electrons through their biological circuit.

"One of our research strategies is to introduce mutations into the bacteria and study how these affect the energy conversion efficiency of the reaction center," said Su Lin, PhD, senior researcher at ASU's Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry and Biodesign Institute, and lead author of the study. "Carefully-designed aberrations provide extensive information about the normal mechanism of energy conversion in reaction centers, just like studying a disease clarifies the parameters of health for the involved biochemical pathways and tissues. From this, we can learn a lot about the most basic mechanisms of photosynthesis."

The reactions that convert light to chemical energy happen in a millionth of a millionth of a second, which makes experimental observation extremely challenging. A premier ultrafast laser spectroscopic detection system that Lin has built, with the sponsorship of the National Science Foundation, acts like a high-speed motion picture camera. It splits the light spectrum into infinitesimally discrete slivers, allowing the group to capture vast numbers of ultrafast frames from the components of these exceedingly rapid reactions. These frames are then mathematically assembled, allowing the group to make a figurative 'movie' of the energy transfer events of photosynthesis.

The current research study began when Paul R. Jaschke, a graduate student with professor J. Thomas Beatty in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Britis
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Contact: Joe Caspermeyer
joseph.caspermeyer@asu.edu
480-727-0369
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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