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Researchers uncover molecular architecture of natural photosynthetic machinery

Credit: CC0 Public Domain Biological membranes play important roles in shaping the cell, sensing the external environment, molecule transport, and generating energy for life. One of the most significant biological membranes are the thylakoid membranes produced in plants, algae and cyanobacteria, which carry out the light reactions of photosynthesis.

Researchers at the University of Liverpool have uncovered the molecular architecture and organizational landscape of thylakoid membranes from a model cyanobacterium in unprecedented detail. The study, which is published in Nature Plants , could help researchers find new and improved artificial photosynthetic technologies for energy production.

Professor Luning Liu, who led the study, explained: “Cyanobacteria perform plant-like photosynthesis. Hence, thylakoid membranes from laboratory-grown cyanobacteria are the ideal model system for studying and tuning plant photosynthesis.”

The researchers used state-of-the-art atomic force microscopy (AFM) to probe the structures and organization of photosynthetic proteins within the thylakoid membranes. The results reveal how thylakoid membranes modulate the abundance of different photosynthetic proteins and form structurally variable complexes to adapt to the changing environments.

Dr. Longsheng Zhao, the first author of this paper, said: “We observed that different protein complexes have their specific locations in the thylakoid membranes . We also visualized that distinct photosynthetic complexes can be […]

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