Light Absorption and Energy Transfer in the Antenna Complexes of Photosynthetic Organisms

Tihana Mirkovic, Evgeny E. Ostroumov, Jessica M. Anna, Rienk van Grondelle, Govindjee, Gregory D. Scholes

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The process of photosynthesis is initiated by the capture of sunlight by a network of light-absorbing molecules (chromophores), which are also responsible for the subsequent funneling of the excitation energy to the reaction centers. Through evolution, genetic drift, and speciation, photosynthetic organisms have discovered many solutions for light harvesting. In this review, we describe the underlying photophysical principles by which this energy is absorbed, as well as the mechanisms of electronic excitation energy transfer (EET). First, optical properties of the individual pigment chromophores present in light-harvesting antenna complexes are introduced, and then we examine the collective behavior of pigment-pigment and pigment-protein interactions. The description of energy transfer, in particular multichromophoric antenna structures, is shown to vary depending on the spatial and energetic landscape, which dictates the relative coupling strength between constituent pigment molecules. In the latter half of the article, we focus on the light harvesting complexes of purple bacteria as a model to illustrate the present understanding of the synergetic effects leading to EET optimization of light-harvesting antenna systems while exploring the structure and function of the integral chromophores. We end this review with a brief overview of the energy-transfer dynamics and pathways in the light-harvesting antennas of various photosynthetic organisms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-293
Number of pages45
JournalChemical Reviews
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2017


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