Surface charge dynamics in photosynthetic membranes and its structural consequences

Bart van Oort, Sujith Puthiyaveetil, Helmut Kirchhoff

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The strict stacking of plant photosynthetic membranes into granal structures plays a vital role in energy conversion. The molecular forces that lead to grana stacking, however, are poorly understood. Here we evaluate the interplay between repulsive electrostatic (Fel) and attractive van der Waals (FvdWaals) forces in grana stacking. In contrast to previous reports, we find that the physicochemical balance between attractive and repulsive forces fully explains grana stacking. Extending the force balance analysis to lateral interactions within the oxygen-evolving photosystem II (PSII)–light harvesting complex II (LHCII) supercomplex reveals that supercomplex stability is very sensitive to Fel changes. Fel is highly dynamic, increasing up to 1.7-fold on addition of negative charges by phosphorylation of grana-hosted proteins. We show that this leads to specific destabilization of the supercomplex, and that changes in Fel have contrasting effects on vertical stacking and lateral intramembrane organization. This enables discrete biological control of these central structural features.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10.1038/nplants.2017.20
Pages (from-to)17020
JournalNature Plants
Publication statusPublished - 6 Mar 2017


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