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EMBO J. 2002 Nov 15;21(22):6146-53.

From chloroplasts to photosystems: in situ scanning force microscopy on intact thylakoid membranes.

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  • 1Department of Plant Sciences and Department of Biological Chemistry, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel.


Envelope-free chloroplasts were imaged in situ by contact and tapping mode scanning force microscopy at a lateral resolution of 3-5 nm and vertical resolution of approximately 0.3 nm. The images of the intact thylakoids revealed detailed structural features of their surface, including individual protein complexes over stroma, grana margin and grana-end membrane domains. Structural and immunogold-assisted assignment of two of these complexes, photosystem I (PS I) and ATP synthase, allowed direct determination of their surface density, which, for both, was found to be highest in grana margins. Surface rearrangements and pigment- protein complex redistribution associated with salt-induced membrane unstacking were followed on native, hydrated specimens. Unstacking was accompanied by a substantial increase in grana diameter and, eventually, led to their merging with the stroma lamellae. Concomitantly, PS IIalpha effective antenna size decreased by 21% and the mean size of membrane particles increased substantially, consistent with attachment of mobile light-harvesting complex II to PS I. The ability to image intact photosynthetic membranes at molecular resolution, as demonstrated here, opens up new vistas to investigate thylakoid structure and function.

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