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 Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds
26.05.2017 | Cornell University

nachricht How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system
26.05.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>