Strong excitonic interactions are a key design strategy in photosynthetic light harvesting, expanding the spectral cross-section for light absorption and creating considerably faster and more robust excitation energy transfer. These molecular excitons are a direct result of exceptionally densely packed pigments in photosynthetic proteins. The main light-harvesting complexes of diatoms, known as fucoxan-thin-chlorophyll proteins (FCPs), are an exception, displaying surprisingly weak excitonic coupling between their chlorophyll (Chl) a's, despite a high pigment density. Here, we show, using single-molecule spectroscopy, that the FCP complexes of Cyclotella meneghiniana switch frequently into stable, strongly emissive states shifted 4-10 nm toward the red. A few percent of isolated FCPa complexes and similar to 20% of isolated FCPb complexes, on average, were observed to populate these previously unobserved states, percentages that agree with the steady-state fluorescence spectra of FCP ensembles. Thus, the complexes use their enhanced sensitivity to static disorder to increase their light-harvesting capability in a number of ways. A disordered exciton model based on the structure of the main plant light-harvesting complex explains the red-shifted emission by strong localization of the excitation energy on a single Chl a pigment in the terminal emitter domain due to very specific pigment orientations. We suggest that the specific construction of FCP gives the complex a unique strategy to ensure that its light-harvesting function remains robust in the fluctuating protein environment despite limited excitonic interactions.
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|Publication status||Published - 26 Dec 2017|
- fucoxanthin-chlorophyll protein
- light-harvesting complex
- photosynthetic excitons
- protein disorder
- single-molecule spectroscopy