The first insight into the structure of the Photosystem II reaction centre complex at $6{\AA}$ resolution determined by electron crystallography

  • Published : 1999.08.01


Electron crystallography of two-dimensional crystalsand electron cryo-microscopy is becoming an established method for determining the structure and function of a variety of membrane proteins that are providing difficult to crystallize in three dimension. In this study this technique has been used to investigate the structure of a ~160 kDa reaction centre sub-core complex of photosystem II. Photosystem II is a photosynthetic membrane protein consisting of more than 25 subunits. It uses solar energy to split water releasing molecular oxygen into the atmosphere and creates electrochemical potential across the thylakoid membrane, which is eventually utilized to generate ATP and NADPH. Images were taken using Philips CM200 field emission gun electron microscope with an acceleration voltage of 200kW at liquid nitrogen temperature. In total, 79 images recorded dat tilt angles ranging from 0 to 67 degree yielded amplitudes and phases for a three-dimensional map with an in-plant resolution of 6$\AA$ and 11.4$\AA$ in the third dimension shows at least 23 transmembrane helices resolved in a monomeric complex, of which 18 were able to be assigned to the D1, D2, CP47 , and cytochrome b559 alfa beta-subunits with their associated pigments that ae active in electron transport (Rhee, 1998, Ph.D.thesis). The D1/D2 heterodimer is located in the central position within the complex and its helical scalffold is remarkably similar to that of the reaction centres not only in purple bacteria but also in plant photosystem I (PSI) , indicating a common evoluationary origin of all types of reaction centre in photosynthetic organism known today 9RHee et al. 1998). The structural homology is now extended to the inner antenna subunit, ascribed to CP47 in our map, where the 6 transmembrane helices show a striking structural similarity to the corresponding helices of the PSI reaction centre proteins. The overall arrangement of the chlorophylls in the D1 /D2 heterodimer, and in particular the distance between the central pair, is ocnsistent with the weak exciton coupling of P680 that distinguishes this reaction centre from bacterial counterpart. The map in most progress towards high resolution structure will be presented and discussed.