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Metallomics. 2011 Aug;3(8):765-74. doi: 10.1039/c1mt00034a. Epub 2011 Jun 20.

The effects of protein crowding in bacterial photosynthetic membranes on the flow of quinone redox species between the photochemical reaction center and the ubiquinol-cytochrome c2 oxidoreductase.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Rutgers University, Busch Campus, 604 Allison Road, Piscataway, NJ 08854-8082, USA.


Atomic force microscopy (AFM) of the native architecture of the intracytoplasmic membrane (ICM) of a variety of species of purple photosynthetic bacteria, obtained at submolecular resolution, shows a tightly packed arrangement of light harvesting (LH) and reaction center (RC) complexes. Since there are no unattributed structures or gaps with space sufficient for the cytochrome bc(1) or ATPase complexes, they are localized in membrane domains distinct from the flat regions imaged by AFM. This has generated a renewed interest in possible long-range pathways for lateral diffusion of UQ redox species that functionally link the RC and the bc(1) complexes. Recent proposals to account for UQ flow in the membrane bilayer are reviewed, along with new experimental evidence provided from an analysis of intrinsic near-IR fluorescence emission that has served to test these hypotheses. The results suggest that different mechanism of UQ flow exist between species such as Rhodobacter sphaeroides, with a highly organized arrangement of LH and RC complexes and fast RC electron transfer turnover, and Phaeospirillum molischianum with a more random organization and slower RC turnover. It is concluded that packing density of the peripheral LH2 antenna in the Rba. sphaeroides ICM imposes constraints that significantly slow the diffusion of UQ redox species between the RC and cytochrome bc(1) complex, while in Phs. molischianum, the crowding of the ICM with LH3 has little effect upon UQ diffusion. This supports the proposal that in this type of ICM, a network of RC-LH1 core complexes observed in AFM provides a pathway for long-range quinone diffusion that is unaffected by differences in LH complex composition or organization.

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