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Science. 2005 Jul 15;309(5733):484-7.

Chromatic adaptation of photosynthetic membranes.

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  • 1Institut Curie, Unité Mixte de Recherche-CNRS 168, 11 rue Pierre et Marie Curie, 75231 Paris Cedex 05, France.


Many biological membranes adapt in response to environmental conditions. We investigated how the composition and architecture of photosynthetic membranes of a bacterium change in response to light, using atomic force microscopy. Despite large modifications in the membrane composition, the local environment of core complexes remained unaltered, whereas specialized paracrystalline light-harvesting antenna domains grew under low-light conditions. Thus, the protein mixture in the membrane shows eutectic behavior and can be mimicked by a simple model. Such structural adaptation ensures efficient photon capture under low-light conditions and prevents photodamage under high-light conditions.

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