Polychromatic solar energy conversion in pigment-protein chimeras that unite the two kingdoms of (bacterio)chlorophyll-based photosynthesis

Juntai Liu, Vincent M. Friebe, Raoul N. Frese, Michael R. Jones*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Natural photosynthesis can be divided between the chlorophyll-containing plants, algae and cyanobacteria that make up the oxygenic phototrophs and a diversity of bacteriochlorophyll-containing bacteria that make up the anoxygenic phototrophs. Photosynthetic light harvesting and reaction centre proteins from both kingdoms have been exploited for solar energy conversion, solar fuel synthesis and sensing technologies, but the energy harvesting abilities of these devices are limited by each protein’s individual palette of pigments. In this work we demonstrate a range of genetically-encoded, self-assembling photosystems in which recombinant plant light harvesting complexes are covalently locked with reaction centres from a purple photosynthetic bacterium, producing macromolecular chimeras that display mechanisms of polychromatic solar energy harvesting and conversion. Our findings illustrate the power of a synthetic biology approach in which bottom-up construction of photosystems using naturally diverse but mechanistically complementary components can be achieved in a predictable fashion through the encoding of adaptable, plug-and-play covalent interfaces.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1542
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Early online dateMar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


The Lhcb1.3 plasmid was a kind gift from Prof. Roberta Croce of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands. We also thank Dr. Majid Mosayebi from the School of Mathematics, University of Bristol for generous advice on simulations. J.L. and M.R.J. acknowledge funding from the EPSRC/BBSRC Synthetic Biology Centre for Doctoral Training (EP/L016494/1) and from the BrisSynBio Synthetic Biology Research Centre at the University of Bristol (BB/L01386X/1). R.N.F. acknowledges support from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) for a Vidi grant and V.M.F. for funding from NWO Veni project 16866.

FundersFunder number
BrisSynBio Synthetic Biology Research Centre
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research CouncilEP/L016494/1
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
University of BristolBB/L01386X/1
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek16866


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