Berkeley Lab Researchers Create First Multiple Antennae Model of Photosystem II
To understand what goes on inside a beehive you can’t just study the activity of a single bee. Likewise, to understand the photosynthetic light-harvesting that takes place inside the chloroplast of a leaf, you can’t just study the activity of a single antenna protein. Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California (UC) Berkeley have created the first computational model that simulates the light-harvesting activity of the thousands of antenna proteins that would be interacting in the chloroplast of an actual leaf. The results from this model point the way to improving the yields of food and fuel crops, and developing artificial photosynthesis technologies for next generation solar energy systems.
The new model simulates light-harvesting across several hundred nanometers of a thylakoid membrane, which is the membrane within a chloroplast that harbors photosystem II (PSII), a complex of antennae made up of mostly of chlorophyll-containing proteins. The antennae in PSII gain “excitation” energy when they absorb sunlight and, through quantum mechanical effects, almost instantaneously transport this extra energy to reaction centers for conversion into chemical energy. Previous models of PSII simulated energy transport within a single antenna protein.