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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 May 26;95(11):5935-41.

Architecture and mechanism of the light-harvesting apparatus of purple bacteria.

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  • 1Beckman Institute and Department of Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.


Photosynthetic organisms fuel their metabolism with light energy and have developed for this purpose an efficient apparatus for harvesting sunlight. The atomic structure of the apparatus, as it evolved in purple bacteria, has been constructed through a combination of x-ray crystallography, electron microscopy, and modeling. The detailed structure and overall architecture reveals a hierarchical aggregate of pigments that utilizes, as shown through femtosecond spectroscopy and quantum physics, elegant and efficient mechanisms for primary light absorption and transfer of electronic excitation toward the photosynthetic reaction center.

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