Professor Jian-Ren Shen is recognized for his pioneering research on clarifying the fundamental reaction mechanism that governs photosynthetic water splitting, a process with fundamental importance in understanding how oxygenic photosynthetic organisms, such as plants, use energy from sunlight, water, and CO2 to survive.
Structure of PS II dimer
“I first started research on photosynthetic proteins in the beginning of my doctorate project,” says Shen. “Our findings published in 2011 were based on x-ray diffraction experiments of large, high quality single crystal of so-called ‘photosystem II’ (PS II) at Japan’s SPring-8 synchrotron radiation facility at Harima. The ability to produce large sized, single crystals of PS II, an extremely large membrane-protein complex, was critical for determining the crystalline structure of this protein complex to a resolution of 1.9 Angstroms. These results are the culmination of 20 years of my life spent on the development and improvement of the process to produce such large crystals.”
Professor Shen’s initial research on photosynthesis was focused on clarifying the effects of air pollution on plants. The objectives of this research necessitated clarification of the fundamental mechanism underlying photosynthesis, which in turn required the production of a high quality crystal of PS II. “After many years of exhaustive experiments and uncountable failures, we eventually succeeded in producing large, ‘tofu-like’ single crystals of PS II with dimensions of 0.7 x 0.4 x 0.1 mm,” explains Shen. “This was a major breakthrough that led to the ultra-high resolution analysis of PS II.”
Recent reports on the crystallographic analysis of PS II can be traced back to the early 2000s but the results yielded only ‘fuzzy’ images because of imperfections in the samples. In contrast the 2011 findings by Shen and colleagues yielded unprecedented images of the core of the PS II protein, showing the existence of cubic-core of four manganese atoms, five oxygen atoms, and a calcium atom, which constitutes the heart of plant life (Science 2011, 334, 1630).
“This cubic structure of Mn4CaO5 acts as a catalyst for the water splitting reaction induced by sunlight,” explains Shen. “These results have many important practical applications including the possibility of synthesizing artificial catalyst to dissociate water into oxygen and hydrogen to produce electricity in fuel cells, for example.”
Indeed there is increasing interests in ‘artificial photosynthesis’ for the production of energy. But Professor Shen says that his group will focus on basic research on the reaction mechanism of PS II. “Our next goal is to clarify the so-called ‘intermediate structure’ of PS II,” says Shen. “To do so we require even higher resolution x-ray diffraction experiments at both space and time levels. We are planning to use the SACLA X-ray Free Electron Laser (XFEL) facility in SPring-8 to achieve this. This will enable us to look at the movement of atoms during photosynthesis.”
Professor Shen’s contributions to clarifying the mechanisms underlying photosynthesis have received many accolades including the ‘Breakthrough of the Year’ for 2011 by AAAS Science; the 2012 Asahi Prize; and the launch of the Okayama University Photosynthesis Research Center on 1 April 2013.Further information:
Journal information1. Yasufumi Umena (1), Keisuke Kawakami (2), Jian-Ren Shen (2) and Nobuo Kamiya (1), Crystal structure of oxygen-evolving photosystem II at a resolution of 1.9 Å; Nature 473, 55–61, (2011).
2 Division of Bioscience, Graduate School of Natural Science and Technology/Faculty of Science; Okayama University, Okayama 700-8530, Japan.
Organic-inorganic heterostructures with programmable electronic properties
30.03.2017 | Technische Universität Dresden
Researchers use light to remotely control curvature of plastics
23.03.2017 | North Carolina State University
The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.
To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine
30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine
30.03.2017 | Medical Engineering