The Purdue University biologists who determined the structure of the cytochrome protein complex, which is critical for photosynthesis, are, from left, professor Janet Smith, associate research scientist Huamin Zhang, visiting scholar Genji Kurisu and distinguished professor William Cramer. (Purdue Department of Biological Sciences photo/T. Geders)
Shown is an illustration of the cytochrome b6f protein complex, which is critical for photosynthesis. The eight colors represent the eight protein components of the cytochrome complex; the cylinders are the 26 segments of the complex that cross the photosynthetic membrane; the colored rings made of little balls that are embedded in protein are the groups that actually carry the electrons stimulated by light absorbed in photosynthesis. Purdue University biologists determined the structure of the complex using X-ray crystallography. (Purdue Department of Biological Sciences illustration/H. Zhang)
A complete molecular-scale picture of how plants convert sunlight to chemical energy has been obtained at Purdue University, offering potential new insights into animal metabolism as well.
Using advanced imaging techniques, a team of Purdue biologists has determined the structure of the cytochrome, a protein complex that governs photosynthesis in a blue-green bacterium. While their work does not immediately suggest any industrial applications, it does reveal a wealth of information not only about a chemical process crucial to all life on the planet, but also about how cells handle and distribute energy. According to team member William Cramer, the study is a great leap forward in our understanding of photosynthesis.
"Where we once could see merely the tip of the iceberg, we can now perceive the entire mechanism of photosynthesis," said Cramer, the Henry Koffler Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences in Purdue’s School of Science. "Before we found a way to crystallize the cytochrome, we had a general picture of the photosynthetic process, but possessed only a fraction of a percent of the information we now have. Now that we can examine these proteins closely with X-ray crystallography, it could lead to knowledge about how all cells exchange energy with their environment."
Chad Boutin | Purdue News
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