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Structure and function of the photosynthetic membrane
In the longer term, the new findings could contribute to the optimization of photosynthesis. The grana stacks in the thylakoids are enriched for the antennal proteins that gather and channel light energy and the reaction centers known as Photosystem II. They are therefore, in many respects, more efficient energy converters than the single-layered membrane sheets that connect them together, which harbor Photosystem I. Understanding how CURT1 functions might therefore allow one to increase the degree of stacking and enhance the efficiency of photosynthesis - and perhaps increase yields from crop plants. In cooperation with the Edmund Mach Foundation (Trento, Italy) and the University of Trento, the authors of the new study have applied for patent protection for the use of CURT1 in this setting.
By making use of sunlight to generate molecular oxygen and other energy-rich chemical compounds that other organisms can utilize as nutrients, photosynthesis provides the basis for almost all life on Earth. Radiant energy from the Sun is captured by pigment-protein complexes embedded in specialized membrane systems called thylakoids. The thylakoids of green plants reside within organelles called chloroplasts, membrane-bounded compartments in the cell cytoplasm that serve as self-contained reaction vessels.
Photosysthesis role of membranes
Leister and his group have now identified a new family of proteins, whose members spontaneously cause membranes to bend. The researchers call them CURT1 proteins (for CURvature of Thylakoids). "Without CURT1 proteins, there are no stacks," Leister reports. Using the model plant Arabidopsis, he and his colleagues have been able to show that the concentration of CURT is directly correlated with the number of thylakoid stacks in chloroplasts. CURT1 itself is primarily localized at the edges of the grana, exactly where the membrane is maximally curved. In addition, the researchers have shown in the test-tube that isolated CURT1 molecules spontaneously assemble into larger complexes that can alter the curvature of membranes. "It is therefore likely that the aggregation of several CURT1 molecules plays an important role in the formation of thylakoid stacks in the chloroplasts," Leister concludes.
Photosynthesis occurs in the chloroplasts where the photosynthetic membranes, the so-called thylakoids are located. They are responsible for the light reaction whereby light is captured and its energy converted to chemical energy in the form of ATP and NADPH concomitant with the development of oxygen. The thylakoids are made up of over a hundred membrane proteins which together with pigments, chlorophyll and carotenoids, and membrane lipids, mainly galactolipids, form a highly complex membrane system which not only carry out electron transport and ATP synthesis but also harvest light, with the help of the pigments in a very efficient way. In addition the thylakoids have a very ingenious system of repair and antioxidants for protection against damage caused by light and oxidative stress. Thylakoids are probably the most complicated of biological membranes. They are the most abundant of all biological membranes on earth.
Pigments in Photosynthesis; Role of …
Photosynthesis takes place in specialized membrane systems, made up of stacked disks linked together by unstacked planar leaflets. A team of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich has now identified a protein that tucks the membrane in at the edge of each stack.
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