Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists shed light on the mystery of photosynthesis

26.08.2004


Scientists at the University of Sheffield are part of an international team that has become the first to successfully discover how the component parts of photosynthesis fit together within the cell membrane. In a paper, The native architecture of a photosynthetic membrane, published in Nature on 26 August 2004, they describe how the configuration of the three structures that allow photosynthesis to occur fit together, and find that Mother Nature has developed a much more complex and effective system than was previously thought.

Photosynthesis is the reaction that allows plants and bacteria to take in sunlight and convert it into chemical energy, by reducing carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates and oxygen. Photosynthesis is the backbone of life on Earth – all the food we eat, the oxygen we breathe and the fossil fuel we burn are products of this reaction.

Professor Neil Hunter from the University of Sheffield explains, “Photosynthesis is the single most important chemical reaction on Earth and it is fascinating to see for the first time how nature has overcome the problem of harvesting and utilising solar energy.



“Although scientists have known the structures of the individual components involved in photosynthesis for some time, this is the first time we have managed to see how they all fit together and work as a system. To achieve this we have used an Atomic Force Microscope, which ‘feels’ the shape of individual molecules and converts this into a picture, to see the system within an individual cell membrane. We have discovered Nature’s way of collecting light for photosynthesis.

“We already knew that during photosynthesis light is collected by an antenna made up of two light harvesting complexes – LH1 and LH2, and then passed to a reaction centre (RC) where it is converted into chemical energy. However, these were like individual jigsaw pieces and we had yet to see the full picture.

“The way photosynthesis works is that groups of LH2 complexes pick up the light, and pass them it around among themselves until the light comes across an LH2 complex which is touching one of the larger LH1 complexes. The energy then circulates around the LH1 complex, or passes to another LH1, until it moves on to the reaction centre.

“We found that the LH2 complexes are structured in an antenna-like shape and when light is scarce they co-operate by joining together to allow them to make the best possible use of the limited light available.

“The LH1 complexes are each attached to their own RC and from looking at the images we believe that if an LH1 takes in light whilst its reaction centre is ‘busy’ then it will keep passing the energy on to neighbouring LH1 complexes, until an unoccupied reaction centre is found.

“We hope to test this particular theory further but the purpose of both of these systems would be to maximise the efficiency of photosynthesis. The process of harvesting light energy is over 95% efficient, which is an incredible figure.

“This work doesn’t only have implications for our understanding of photosynthesis, but also for the future of molecular science. By looking at the world on an individual molecular level scientists have the opportunity to learn more about an incredible number of biological systems and processes.”

Lorna Branton | alfa
Further information:
http://www.shef.ac.uk

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Transport of molecular motors into cilia
28.03.2017 | Aarhus University

nachricht Asian dust providing key nutrients for California's giant sequoias
28.03.2017 | University of California - Riverside

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

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...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

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...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

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...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

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...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Transport of molecular motors into cilia

28.03.2017 | Life Sciences

A novel hybrid UAV that may change the way people operate drones

28.03.2017 | Information Technology

NASA spacecraft investigate clues in radiation belts

28.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>