Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Photosynthesis in 3D

15.01.2015

Photosynthesis sustains most of the life on our planet. It harvests energy from sunlight, while generating oxygen and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The process takes place in the chloroplasts of plants and algae. Researchers in the team of Wolfgang Baumeister at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried near Munich were recently successful in revealing the native structure of the chloroplast in 3D. 

“The results are the first of their kind and provide us with new insights into the mechanisms of photosynthesis”, says Benjamin Engel, first author of the study. The results were recently published in the journal eLife.


3D cross section of a chloroplast of the alga Chlamydomonas. Small tubular structures connect the thylakoids (green stacks on the left) with the RuBisCO-containing pyrenoid (right).

Figure: Ben Engel / Copyright: MPI of Biochemistry

So far, researchers who wanted to observe tiny structures inside of cells had to use traditional electron microscopy. However, this method requires several preparation steps that damage cellular structures and limit the resolution and accuracy of the images. By using cryo-electron tomography, Wolfgang Baumeister and his team are able to avoid these steps by rapidly freezing the cells. Moreover, this allows them to visualize the internal architecture of cells in a close-to-living state. Using this technique, the scientists investigated the three dimensional structures of chloroplasts in the alga Chlamydomonas, shedding new light on their assembly and function.

Two spatially separated reactions take place during photosynthesis: while energy is harvested from sunlight in compartments called the thylakoids, carbon dioxide is fixed to form sugar molecules in a compartment called the pyrenoid. It was not understood how these processes could be coordinated. The new 3D images revealed the detailed structures of tubules that connect the pyrenoid with the thylakoids, providing conduits for the diffusion of energy molecules and sugars between these two separated parts of the chloroplast (see figure).

Besides the fact that there are connections between the two reaction compartments, the scientists were also able to show how the thylakoids receive new proteins and how the photosynthesis enzymes are organized: “In the pyrenoid, there are many units of the photosynthesis enzyme RuBisCO”, explains Benjamin Engel, scientist at the MPI of Biochemistry. “Our results show for the first time that these units are packed in a hexagonal arrangement.” In the future, the authors aim to elucidate how this RuBisCO organization is formed and whether more proteins are involved. [HS]

Original publication:
Engel B, Schaffer M, Kuhn Cuellar L, Villa E, Plitzko JM and Baumeister W: Native Architecture of the Chlamydomonas Chloroplast Revealed by In Situ Cryo-Electron Tomography. eLife, January 13, 2015.
DOI: 10.7554/eLife.04889

Contact:
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Baumeister
Molecular Structural Biology
Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry
Am Klopferspitz 18
82152 Martinsried
Germany
E-Mail: baumeist@biochem.mpg.de
http://www.biochem.mpg.de/baumeister

Anja Konschak
Public Relations
Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry
Am Klopferspitz 18
82152 Martinsried
Germany
Phone: +49 89 8578-2824
E-Mail: konschak@biochem.mpg.de
http://www.biochem.mpg.de

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.biochem.mpg.de/baumeister - Website of the Research Department "Molecular Structural Biology" (Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Baumeister)
http://www.biochem.mpg.de/news - More press releases of the MPI of Biochemistry

Anja Konschak | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells
12.12.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Smelling the forest – not the trees
12.12.2018 | Universität Konstanz

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

Im Focus: Topological material switched off and on for the first time

Key advance for future topological transistors

Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...

Im Focus: Researchers develop method to transfer entire 2D circuits to any smooth surface

What if a sensor sensing a thing could be part of the thing itself? Rice University engineers believe they have a two-dimensional solution to do just that.

Rice engineers led by materials scientists Pulickel Ajayan and Jun Lou have developed a method to make atom-flat sensors that seamlessly integrate with devices...

Im Focus: Three components on one chip

Scientists at the University of Stuttgart and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) succeed in important further development on the way to quantum Computers.

Quantum computers one day should be able to solve certain computing problems much faster than a classical computer. One of the most promising approaches is...

Im Focus: Substitute for rare earth metal oxides

New Project SNAPSTER: Novel luminescent materials by encapsulating phosphorescent metal clusters with organic liquid crystals

Nowadays energy conversion in lighting and optoelectronic devices requires the use of rare earth oxides.

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

Expert Panel on the Future of HPC in Engineering

03.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Innovative Infrared heat reduces energy consumption in coating packaging for food

12.12.2018 | Trade Fair News

New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

12.12.2018 | Information Technology

Obtaining polyester from plant oil

12.12.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>