Tue. Nov 12th, 2019

Scientists look into the detailed view of an Ancestor of Photosynthesis

In order to make chemicals and some fuels from solar energy, researchers and scientists observe for inspiration, the process of photosynthesis. Lately, a research team has found a very detailed view of the reaction center, which is a pigment-protein complex that serves as the photosynthesis’ heart in a primitive organism. This reaction center is symmetrical and contains 2 quite similar central proteins and 2 relatively smaller proteins that bind together the pigments and some other molecules that are passing electrons to the mobile carriers.

With these conclusions, researchers can try to evaluate the primitive reaction center and also the more advanced centers present in some other photosynthetic organisms. Comparisons like these help the scientists to better understand how light is gathered optimally by reaction centers and how it is converted into chemical energy so that the organisms may use it. The scientists would then be able to utilize this knowledge for the development of artificial systems that make use of sunlight in order to produce fuels and other chemicals.

Scientists can understand how organisms are making use of sunlight in order to drive their metabolism by studying the process of photosynthesis. This understanding of the process of photosynthesis inspires the researchers for new strategies and ways of utilizing sunlight as sustainable energy. Researchers believe that the photosystems that vary across plants, bacteria, and algae have evolved from a singular primitive reaction center. In order to look for the closest relative to the ancestral photosystem,  the researchers of the study had to examine the primitive photosynthetic bacterium’s reaction center, Heliobacterium modesticaldum. Using the latest X-ray crystallography, the research team analyzed the physical structure of this reaction center. They further showed that the center is symmetrical. The structure of the reaction center proposes the look of the ancestral reaction center and interestingly, how it is very similar to the structure of photosystems in algae, plants, and “modern” bacteria. From the observation of this structure, researchers have gained insights into how nature optimizes the use of light for driving chemical energy.