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Scientists study the catalytic reactions used by plants to split oxygen from water
Date:4/3/2012

cyanobacteria, oxygen is produced by the accumulation of photo-induced oxidizing equivalents in a structure known as the oxygen-evolving complex (OEC). The OEC contains manganese and calcium ions. Illumination causes oxidation of manganese ions in the OEC. Short laser flashes can be used to step through the reaction cycle, which involves four sequential light-induced oxidation reactions. Oxygen is produced on the fourth step, and then is released from the OEC.

This so-called S state cycle resets with the binding of the substrate, water. Scientists have proposed that a hydrogen bond network, which includes multiple water molecules bound to manganese ions, calcium ions, and protein amide carbonyl (C=O) groups, forms an electrostatic network surrounding the OEC. In this scenario, the extensive hydrogen-bond network would then serve as a component of the catalyst, which splits off oxygen.

To study the process, Barry and graduate student Brandon Polander used precision FT-IR spectroscopy to describe how the network reacts to a short laser flash. The second harmonic of a pulsed Nd-Yag laser was used as the light source. This illumination causes the OEC to undergo one step in its catalytic cycle, the so-called S1 to S2 transition. An infrared spectrum was recorded before and after a laser flash to the photosystem sample, which was isolated from supermarket spinach.

The exquisite sensitivity of FT-IR spectroscopy allowed them to measure changes in the bond strength of the protein C=O groups. The energies of these C=O groups were used as markers of hydrogen bond strength. The brief laser flash oxidized a manganese ion and caused a change in the strength of the C=O bond, which reported an increase in hydrogen bonding to water molecules. When ammonia was added as an inhibitor, a decrease in C=O hydrogen bonding was observed instead. Addition of trehalose, which is known to change the ordering of water molecules at the surface of protein
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Contact: John Toon
jtoon@gatech.edu
404-894-6986
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News
Source:Eurekalert  

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