Plants, bacteria and fungi react to light with light-sensitive proteins. Scientists from the University of Gothenburg and their Finnish colleagues from University of Jyväskylä have now determined the inner workings of one of these proteins. The results have been published in the most recent issue of Science Advances.
The investigated proteins are called “phytochromes”. They consist of thousands of atoms and can be thought of as tiny, microscopic machines. These proteins are found in all plant leaves, many bacteria and fungi. The proteins inform the cell whether it is day or night or whether it is cloudy or sunny.
“Phytochrome proteins are the eyes of plants and in many bacteria. We have now discovered how bacterial phytochromes work at the molecular level,” explains Sebastian Westenhoff at the Department of Chemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Gothenburg.
Phytochromes change in the light
Efficient photosynthesis requires that leaves are exposed to the sun. For this, the plants have to grow towards sunlight and phytochrome proteins control this process. Similarly, bacteria use phytochromes to move to spots where they can survive better. The proteins detect the light and signal to the plant cell how much light is available.
“Each time a phytochrome protein absorbs light, it deforms in a well-orchestrated series of structural changes. We already discovered an early structural change two years ago. Back then we used a shortened phytochrome. In the meantime we have advanced our experimental methods and could now study a full-length protein with a biological activator unit, called histidine kinase. This revealed the change in the final stage of the process.” says Sebastian Westenhoff.
New ways of controlling cells
The discovery increases our understanding of how phytochromes work. This enables modification of the proteins, for example to increase crop yield. However, the new knowledge is also crucial for another technology, where scientists engineer light sensitive proteins to control organism by light. Potentially such artificial proteins can be used to release drugs at specific spots in out body, for example in cancer cells.
“Proteins are molecular nanomachines, which control most of what we see in Nature. Deciphering the structure of proteins is key to understanding how the machines work. This knowledge can also be used to modify or construct new proteins, with custom-built functions,” says Sebastian Westenhoff.
The project was carried out as a collaboration between two groups at the University of Gothenburg and the University of Jyväskylä in Finland. However, more collaboration was needed and the data for the study was recorded at experimental facilities in France, Switzerland, Finland, and the US.
“Numerous data sets had to be recoded and evaluated until a reliable and complete result was obtained.” says Sebastian Westenhoff, “but I think that all the hard work was worth it, because we now understand better how plants and bacteria see light.”
Link to the article in Science Advances: http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/2/8/e1600920
Sebastian Westenhoff, Department for Chemistry and Molecular Biology
Tel.: +46 766 18 39 36, E-mail: email@example.com
Ulrika Lundin | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Polarization of Br2 molecule in vanadium oxide cluster cavity and new alkane bromination
13.07.2020 | Kanazawa University
Researchers present concept for a new technique to study superheavy elements
13.07.2020 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Biochemists at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) have used a standard electron cryo-microscope to achieve surprisingly good images that are on par with those taken by far more sophisticated equipment. They have succeeded in determining the structure of ferritin almost at the atomic level. Their results were published in the journal "PLOS ONE".
Electron cryo-microscopy has become increasingly important in recent years, especially in shedding light on protein structures. The developers of the new...
New insight into the spin behavior in an exotic state of matter puts us closer to next-generation spintronic devices
Aside from the deep understanding of the natural world that quantum physics theory offers, scientists worldwide are working tirelessly to bring forth a...
Kiel physics team observed extremely fast electronic changes in real time in a special material class
In physics, they are currently the subject of intensive research; in electronics, they could enable completely new functions. So-called topological materials...
Solar cells based on perovskite compounds could soon make electricity generation from sunlight even more efficient and cheaper. The laboratory efficiency of these perovskite solar cells already exceeds that of the well-known silicon solar cells. An international team led by Stefan Weber from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz has found microscopic structures in perovskite crystals that can guide the charge transport in the solar cell. Clever alignment of these "electron highways" could make perovskite solar cells even more powerful.
Solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. During this process, the electrons of the material inside the cell absorb the energy of the light....
Empa researchers have succeeded in applying aerogels to microelectronics: Aerogels based on cellulose nanofibers can effectively shield electromagnetic radiation over a wide frequency range – and they are unrivalled in terms of weight.
Electric motors and electronic devices generate electromagnetic fields that sometimes have to be shielded in order not to affect neighboring electronic...
07.07.2020 | Event News
02.07.2020 | Event News
19.05.2020 | Event News
13.07.2020 | Physics and Astronomy
13.07.2020 | Life Sciences
13.07.2020 | Life Sciences