Revealing the Dynamics of Thylakoid Membranes in Living Cyanobacterial Cells.
ABSTRACT: Cyanobacteria are photosynthetic prokaryotes that make major contributions to the production of the oxygen in the Earth atmosphere. The photosynthetic machinery in cyanobacterial cells is housed in flattened membrane structures called thylakoids. The structural organization of cyanobacterial cells and the arrangement of the thylakoid membranes in response to environmental conditions have been widely investigated. However, there is limited knowledge about the internal dynamics of these membranes in terms of their flexibility and motion during the photosynthetic process. We present a direct observation of thylakoid membrane undulatory motion in vivo and show a connection between membrane mobility and photosynthetic activity. High-resolution inelastic neutron scattering experiments on the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 assessed the flexibility of cyanobacterial thylakoid membrane sheets and the dependence of the membranes on illumination conditions. We observed softer thylakoid membranes in the dark that have three-to four fold excess mobility compared to membranes under high light conditions. Our analysis indicates that electron transfer between photosynthetic reaction centers and the associated electrochemical proton gradient across the thylakoid membrane result in a significant driving force for excess membrane dynamics. These observations provide a deeper understanding of the relationship between photosynthesis and cellular architecture.
Project description:The structural dynamics and flexibility of cell membranes play fundamental roles in the functions of the cells, i.e., signaling, energy transduction, and physiological adaptation. The cyanobacterial thylakoid membrane represents a model membrane that can conduct both oxygenic photosynthesis and respiration simultaneously. In this study, we conducted direct visualization of the global organization and mobility of photosynthetic complexes in thylakoid membranes from a model cyanobacterium, Synechococcus elongatus PCC 7942, using high-resolution atomic force, confocal, and total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy. We visualized the native arrangement and dense packing of photosystem I (PSI), photosystem II (PSII), and cytochrome (Cyt) b6f within thylakoid membranes at the molecular level. Furthermore, we functionally tagged PSI, PSII, Cyt b6f, and ATP synthase individually with fluorescent proteins, and revealed the heterogeneous distribution of these four photosynthetic complexes and determined their dynamic features within the crowding membrane environment using live-cell fluorescence imaging. We characterized red light-induced clustering localization and adjustable diffusion of photosynthetic complexes in thylakoid membranes, representative of the reorganization of photosynthetic apparatus in response to environmental changes. Understanding the organization and dynamics of photosynthetic membranes is essential for rational design and construction of artificial photosynthetic systems to underpin bioenergy development. Knowledge of cyanobacterial thylakoid membranes could also be extended to other cell membranes, such as chloroplast and mitochondrial membranes.
Project description:Thylakoid membranes in chloroplasts contain photosynthetic protein complexes that convert light energy into chemical energy. Photosynthetic protein complexes are considered to undergo structural reorganization to maintain the efficiency of photochemical reactions. A detailed description of the mobility of photosynthetic complexes in real time is necessary to understand how macromolecular organization of the membrane is altered by environmental fluctuations. Here, we used high-speed atomic force microscopy to visualize and characterize the in situ mobility of individual protein complexes in grana thylakoid membranes isolated from Spinacia oleracea. Our observations reveal that these membranes can harbor complexes with at least two distinctive classes of mobility. A large fraction of grana membranes contained proteins with quasistatic mobility exhibiting molecular displacements smaller than 10 nm2. In the remaining fraction, the protein mobility is variable with molecular displacements of up to 100 nm2. This visualization at high spatiotemporal resolution enabled us to estimate an average diffusion coefficient of ?1 nm2 s-1. Interestingly, both confined and Brownian diffusion models could describe the protein mobility of the second group of membranes. We also provide the first direct evidence, to our knowledge, of rotational diffusion of photosynthetic complexes. The rotational diffusion of photosynthetic complexes could be an adaptive response to the high protein density in the membrane to guarantee the efficiency of electron transfer reactions. This characterization of the mobility of individual photosynthetic complexes in grana membranes establishes a foundation that could be adapted to study the dynamics of the complexes inside intact and photosynthetically functional thylakoid membranes to be able to understand its structural responses to diverse environmental fluctuations.
Project description:Biological membranes were originally described as a fluid mosaic with uniform distribution of proteins and lipids. Later, heterogeneous membrane areas were found in many membrane systems including cyanobacterial thylakoids. In fact, cyanobacterial pigment-protein complexes (photosystems, phycobilisomes) form a heterogeneous mosaic of thylakoid membrane microdomains (MDs) restricting protein mobility. The trafficking of membrane proteins is one of the key factors for long-term survival under stress conditions, for instance during exposure to photoinhibitory light conditions. However, the mobility of unbound 'free' proteins in thylakoid membrane is poorly characterized. In this work, we assessed the maximal diffusional ability of a small, unbound thylakoid membrane protein by semi-single molecule FCS (fluorescence correlation spectroscopy) method in the cyanobacterium <i>Synechocystis</i> sp. PCC6803. We utilized a GFP-tagged variant of the cytochrome b<sub>6</sub>f subunit PetC1 (PetC1-GFP), which was not assembled in the b<sub>6</sub>f complex due to the presence of the tag. Subsequent FCS measurements have identified a very fast diffusion of the PetC1-GFP protein in the thylakoid membrane (D = 0.14 - 2.95 µm<sup>2</sup>s<sup>-1</sup>). This means that the mobility of PetC1-GFP was comparable with that of free lipids and was 50-500 times higher in comparison to the mobility of proteins (e.g., IsiA, LHCII-light-harvesting complexes of PSII) naturally associated with larger thylakoid membrane complexes like photosystems. Our results thus demonstrate the ability of free thylakoid-membrane proteins to move very fast, revealing the crucial role of protein-protein interactions in the mobility restrictions for large thylakoid protein complexes.
Project description:Cyanobacteria are photosynthetic microbes with highly differentiated membrane systems. These organisms contain an outer membrane, plasma membrane, and an internal system of thylakoid membranes where the photosynthetic and respiratory machinery are found. This existence of compartmentalization and differentiation of membrane systems poses a number of challenges for cyanobacterial cells in terms of organization and distribution of proteins to the correct membrane system. Proteomics studies have long sought to identify the components of the different membrane systems in cyanobacteria, and to date about 450 different proteins have been attributed to either the plasma membrane or thylakoid membrane. Given the complexity of these membranes, many more proteins remain to be identified, and a comprehensive catalogue of plasma membrane and thylakoid membrane proteins is needed. Here we describe the identification of 635 differentially localized proteins in Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 by quantitative iTRAQ isobaric labeling; of these, 459 proteins were localized to the plasma membrane and 176 were localized to the thylakoid membrane. Surprisingly, we found over 2.5 times the number of unique proteins identified in the plasma membrane compared with the thylakoid membrane. This suggests that the protein composition of the thylakoid membrane is more homogeneous than the plasma membrane, consistent with the role of the plasma membrane in diverse cellular processes including protein trafficking and nutrient import, compared with a more specialized role for the thylakoid membrane in cellular energetics. Thus, our data clearly define the two membrane systems with distinct functions. Overall, the protein compositions of the Synechocystis 6803 plasma membrane and thylakoid membrane are quite similar to that of the plasma membrane of Escherichia coli and thylakoid membrane of Arabidopsis chloroplasts, respectively. Synechocystis 6803 can therefore be described as a Gram-negative bacterium with an additional internal membrane system that fulfills the energetic requirements of the cell.
Project description:The cyanobacterial thylakoid membrane represents a system that can carry out both oxygenic photosynthesis and respiration simultaneously. The organization, interactions and mobility of components of these two electron transport pathways are indispensable to the biosynthesis of thylakoid membrane modules and the optimization of bioenergetic electron flow in response to environmental changes. These are of fundamental importance to the metabolic robustness and plasticity of cyanobacteria. This review summarizes our current knowledge about the distribution and dynamics of electron transport components in cyanobacterial thylakoid membranes. Global understanding of the principles that govern the dynamic regulation of electron transport pathways in nature will provide a framework for the design and synthetic engineering of new bioenergetic machinery to improve photosynthesis and biofuel production. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Organization and dynamics of bioenergetic systems in bacteria, edited by Conrad Mullineaux.
Project description:Thylakoid membranes are the specialized internal membrane system produced in plants, algae, and cyanobacteria to convert sunlight to chemical energy via oxygenic photosynthesis. Cyanobacterial thylakoid membranes harbor the protein complexes and electron transport molecules that are necessary for photosynthetic light reactions and respiratory electron flow. The thylakoid membranes sit between the plasma membrane and the central cytoplasm, leading to intricate cellular compartmentalization. How thylakoid membranes are generated to form the functional network and how protein complexes are recruited into thylakoids remain elusive. Here, we developed a method to modulate thylakoid biogenesis in the model cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus PCC7942 and probed the spatial-temporal stepwise biogenesis process of cyanobacterial thylakoid membranes, using electron microscopy, in situ cryo-electron tomography, confocal microscopy, mass spectroscopy, and biochemical approaches. Our results revealed that the plasma membrane and regularly-arranged concentric thylakoid layers have no physical connections. The newly synthesized thylakoid membrane fragments commerce between the plasma membrane and pre-existing thylakoids, where the initial biogenesis of Photosystem II occurs. Photosystem I monomers appear in thylakoid membranes earlier than other photosystem assemblies. Redistribution of photosynthetic protein complexes during thylakoid biogenesis ensures establishment of the spatial organization of the functional thylakoid membrane network. This study provides insights into the molecular processes of the photosynthetic machinery biosynthesis and organization.
Project description:Plants are subject to dramatic fluctuations in the intensity of sunlight throughout the day. When the photosynthetic machinery is exposed to high light, photons are absorbed in excess, potentially leading to oxidative damage of its delicate membrane components. A photoprotective molecular process called non-photochemical quenching (NPQ) is the fastest response carried out in the thylakoid membranes to harmlessly dissipate excess light energy. Despite having been intensely studied, the site and mechanism of this essential regulatory process are still debated. Here, we show that the main NPQ component called energy-dependent quenching (qE) is present in plants with photosynthetic membranes largely enriched in the major trimeric light-harvesting complex (LHC) II, while being deprived of all minor LHCs and most photosystem core proteins. This fast and reversible quenching depends upon thylakoid lumen acidification (?pH). Enhancing ?pH amplifies the extent of the quenching and restores qE in the membranes lacking PSII subunit S protein (PsbS), whereas the carotenoid zeaxanthin modulates the kinetics and amplitude of the quenching. These findings highlight the self-regulatory properties of the photosynthetic light-harvesting membranes in vivo, where the ability to switch reversibly between the harvesting and dissipative states is an intrinsic property of the major LHCII.
Project description:The photosynthetic machinery of the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 resides in flattened membrane sheets called thylakoids, situated in the peripheral part of the cellular cytoplasm. Under photosynthetic conditions these thylakoid membranes undergo various dynamical processes that could be coupled to their energetic functions. Using Neutron Spin Echo Spectroscopy (NSE), we have investigated the undulation dynamics of Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 thylakoids under normal photosynthetic conditions and under chemical treatment with DCMU (3-(3,4-dichlorophenyl)-1,1-dimethylurea), an herbicide that disrupts photosynthetic electron transfer. Our measurements show that DCMU treatment has a similar effect as dark conditions, with differences in the undulation modes of the untreated cells compared to the chemically inhibited cells. We found that the disrupted membranes are 1.5-fold more rigid than the native membranes during the dark cycle, while in light they relax approximately 1.7-fold faster than native and they are 1.87-fold more flexible. The strength of the herbicide disruption effect is characterized further by the damping frequency of the relaxation mode and the decay rate of the local shape fluctuations. In the dark, local thicknesses and shape fluctuations relax twice as fast in native membranes, at 17% smaller mode amplitude, while in light the decay rate of local fluctuations is 1.2-fold faster in inhibited membranes than in native membranes, at 56% higher amplitude. The disrupted electron transfer chain and the decreased proton motive force within the lumenal space partially explain the variations observed in the mechanical properties of the Synechocystis membranes, and further support the hypothesis that the photosynthetic process is tied to thylakoid rigidity in this type of cyanobacterial cell.
Project description:Nature's solar energy converters, the Photosystem I (PSI) and Photosystem II (PSII) reaction center proteins, flawlessly manage photon capture and conversion processes in plants, algae, and cyanobacteria to drive oxygenic water-splitting and carbon fixation. Herein, we utilize the native photosynthetic Z-scheme electron transport chain to drive hydrogen production from thylakoid membranes by directional electron transport to abiotic catalysts bound at the stromal end of PSI. Pt-nanoparticles readily self-assemble with PSI in spinach and cyanobacterial membranes as evidenced by light-driven H2 production in the presence of a mediating electron shuttle protein and the sacrificial electron donor sodium ascorbate. EPR characterization confirms placement of the Pt-nanoparticles on the acceptor end of PSI. In the absence of sacrificial reductant, H2 production at PSI occurs via coupling to light-induced PSII O2 evolution as confirmed by correlation of catalytic activity to the presence or absence of the PSII inhibitor DCMU. To create a more sustainable system, first-row transition metal molecular cobaloxime and nickel diphosphine catalysts were found to perform photocatalysis when bound in situ to cyanobacterial thylakoid membranes. Thus, the self-assembly of abiotic catalysts with photosynthetic membranes demonstrates a tenable method for accomplishing solar overall water splitting to generate H2, a renewable and clean fuel. This work benchmarks a significant advance toward improving photosynthetic efficiency for solar fuel production.
Project description:Thylakoid membranes scaffold an assortment of large protein complexes that work together to harness the energy of light. It has been a longstanding challenge to visualize how the intricate thylakoid network organizes these protein complexes to finely tune the photosynthetic reactions. Previously, we used in situ cryo-electron tomography to reveal the native architecture of thylakoid membranes (Engel et al., 2015). Here, we leverage technical advances to resolve the individual protein complexes within these membranes. Combined with a new method to visualize membrane surface topology, we map the molecular landscapes of thylakoid membranes inside green algae cells. Our tomograms provide insights into the molecular forces that drive thylakoid stacking and reveal that photosystems I and II are strictly segregated at the borders between appressed and non-appressed membrane domains. This new approach to charting thylakoid topology lays the foundation for dissecting photosynthetic regulation at the level of single protein complexes within the cell.