Preferential pathways for light-trapping involving β-ligated chlorophylls

Teodor Silviu Balabana,b,c,*, Paula Braund, Christof Hättiga,e, Arnim Hellwega,e,f, Jan Kerng, Wolfram Saengerh, Athina Zounig
a Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe, Institute for Nanotechnology, Postfach 3640, D-76021 Karlsruhe, Germany
b Center for Functional Nanostructures, Universität Karlsruhe (TH), Germany
c Université "Paul Cézanne" Aix-Marseille III, ISM2, UMR 6263 Chirosciences, Ave. Escadrille Normandie Niemen, St. Jérôme, F-13397 Marseille, CEDEX 20, France
d Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Department Biologie I – Botanik, Menzinger Straße 67, D-80638 München, Germany
e Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Lehrstuhl für Theoretische Chemie, Universitätsstraße 150, D-44801 Bochum, Germany
f COSMOlogic GmbH&Co.KG, Burscheider Str. 515, D-51381 Leverkusen, Germany
g Technische Universität Berlin, Institut für Chemie, Max-Volmer Laboratorium für Biophysikalische Chemie, Straße des 17. Juni 135, D-10623 Berlin, Germany
h Freie Universität Berlin, Institut für Chemie und Biochemie/Kristallographie, Takustaße 6, D-14195 Berlin, Germany

Biochim. Biophys. Acta-Bioener., 1787, 1254-1265 (2009).
Received 16 March 2009; revised 18 May 2009; accepted 20 May 2009. Available online 27 May 2009.

The magnesium atom of chlorophylls (Chls) is always five- or six-coordinated within chlorophyll-protein complexes which are the main light-harvesting systems of plants, algae and most photosynthetic bacteria. Due to the presence of stereocenters and the axial ligation of magnesium the two faces of Chls are diastereotopic. It has been previously recognized that the alpha-configuration having the magnesium ligand on the opposite face of the 17-propionic acid moiety is more frequently encountered and is more stable than the more seldom beta-configuration that has the magnesium ligand on the same face [T.S. Balaban. P. Fromme, A.R. Holzwarth, N. Krau beta, V.I. Prokhorenko, Relevance of the diastereotopic ligation of magnesium atoms in chlorophylls in Photosystem I, Biochim. Biophys. Acta (Bioenergetics), 1556 (2002) 197-207; T. Oba, H. Tamiaki, Which side of the pi-macrocycle plane of (bacterio)chlorophylls is favored for binding of the fifth ligand? Photosynth. Res. 74 (2002) 1-10]. In photosystem I only 14 Chls out of a total of 96 are in a beta-configuration and these occupy preferential positions around the reaction center. We have now analyzed the alpha/beta dichotomy in the homodimeric photosystem II based on the 2.9 angstrom resolution crystal structure [A. Guskov, J. Kern, A. Gabdulkhakov, M. Broser, A. Zouni, W. Saenger, Cyanobacterial photosystem 11 at 2.9 angstrom resolution: role of quinones, lipids, channels and chloride, Nature Struct. Mol. Biol. 16 (2009) 334-342] and find that out of 35 Chls in each monomer only 9 are definitively in the beta-configuration, while 4 are uncertain. Ab initio calculations using the approximate coupled-cluster singles-and-doubles model CC2 [O. Christiansen, H. Koch, P. Jorgensen, The second-order approximate coupled cluster singles and doubles model CC2, Chem. Phys. Lett. 243 (1995) 409-418] now correctly predict the absorption spectra of Chls a and b and conclusively show for histidine, which is the most frequent axial ligand of magnesium in chlorophyll-protein complexes, that only slight differences (<4 nm) are encountered between the alpha- and beta-configurations. Significant red shifts (up to 50 nm) can, however, be encountered in excitonically coupled beta-beta-Chl dimers. Surprisingly, in both photosystems I and II very similar "special" beta-beta dimers are encountered at practically the same distances from P700 and P680, respectively. In purple bacteria LH2, the B850 ring is composed exclusively of such tightly coupled beta-bacteriochlorophylls a. A statistical analysis of the close contacts with the protein matrix (<5 A) shows significant differences between the alpha- and beta-configurations and the subunit providing the axial magnesium ligand. The present study allows us to conclude that the excitation energy transfer in light-harvesting systems, from a peripheral antenna towards the reaction center, may follow preferential pathways due to structural reasons involving beta-ligated Chls. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

*Corresponding author. Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe, Institute for Nanotechnology, Postfach 3640, D-76021 Karlsruhe, Germany. Fax: +49 7247 82 9030. Email to:

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