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Q Rev Biophys. 2006 Aug;39(3):227-324. Epub 2006 Oct 12.

The architecture and function of the light-harvesting apparatus of purple bacteria: from single molecules to in vivo membranes.

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Biomedical Research Building, Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK.


This review describes the structures of the two major integral membrane pigment complexes, the RC-LH1 'core' and LH2 complexes, which together make up the light-harvesting system present in typical purple photosynthetic bacteria. The antenna complexes serve to absorb incident solar radiation and to transfer it to the reaction centres, where it is used to 'power' the photosynthetic redox reaction and ultimately leads to the synthesis of ATP. Our current understanding of the biosynthesis and assembly of the LH and RC complexes is described, with special emphasis on the roles of the newly described bacteriophytochromes. Using both the structural information and that obtained from a wide variety of biophysical techniques, the details of each of the different energy-transfer reactions that occur, between the absorption of a photon and the charge separation in the RC, are described. Special emphasis is given to show how the use of single-molecule spectroscopy has provided a more detailed understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in the energy-transfer processes. We have tried, with the help of an Appendix, to make the details of the quantum mechanics that are required to appreciate these molecular mechanisms, accessible to mathematically illiterate biologists. The elegance of the purple bacterial light-harvesting system lies in the way in which it has cleverly exploited quantum mechanics.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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