Charting the native architecture of Chlamydomonas thylakoid membranes with single-molecule precision.
ABSTRACT: 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.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>The thylakoid system in plant chloroplasts is organized into two distinct domains: grana arranged in stacks of appressed membranes and non-appressed membranes consisting of stroma thylakoids and margins of granal stacks. It is argued that the reason for the development of appressed membranes in plants is that their photosynthetic apparatus need to cope with and survive ever-changing environmental conditions. It is not known however, why different plant species have different arrangements of grana within their chloroplasts. It is important to elucidate whether a different arrangement and distribution of appressed and non-appressed thylakoids in chloroplasts are linked with different qualitative and/or quantitative organization of chlorophyll-protein (CP) complexes in the thylakoid membranes and whether this arrangement influences the photosynthetic efficiency.<h4>Results</h4>Our results from TEM and in situ CLSM strongly indicate the existence of different arrangements of pea and bean thylakoid membranes. In pea, larger appressed thylakoids are regularly arranged within chloroplasts as uniformly distributed red fluorescent bodies, while irregular appressed thylakoid membranes within bean chloroplasts correspond to smaller and less distinguished fluorescent areas in CLSM images. 3D models of pea chloroplasts show a distinct spatial separation of stacked thylakoids from stromal spaces whereas spatial division of stroma and thylakoid areas in bean chloroplasts are more complex. Structural differences influenced the PSII photochemistry, however without significant changes in photosynthetic efficiency. Qualitative and quantitative analysis of chlorophyll-protein complexes as well as spectroscopic investigations indicated a similar proportion between PSI and PSII core complexes in pea and bean thylakoids, but higher abundance of LHCII antenna in pea ones. Furthermore, distinct differences in size and arrangements of LHCII-PSII and LHCI-PSI supercomplexes between species are suggested.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Based on proteomic and spectroscopic investigations we postulate that the differences in the chloroplast structure between the analyzed species are a consequence of quantitative proportions between the individual CP complexes and its arrangement inside membranes. Such a structure of membranes induced the formation of large stacked domains in pea, or smaller heterogeneous regions in bean thylakoids. Presented 3D models of chloroplasts showed that stacked areas are noticeably irregular with variable thickness, merging with each other and not always parallel to each other.
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:ATP is the common energy currency of cellular metabolism in all living organisms. Most of them synthesize ATP in the cytosol or on the mitochondrial inner membrane, whereas land plants, algae, and cyanobacteria also produce it on the thylakoid membrane during the light-dependent reactions of photosynthesis. From the site of synthesis, ATP is transported to the site of utilization via intracellular membrane transporters. One major type of ATP transporters is represented by the mitochondrial ADP/ATP carrier family. Here we review a recently characterized member, namely the thylakoid ATP/ADP carrier from Arabidopsis thaliana (AtTAAC). Thus far, no orthologs of this carrier have been characterized in other organisms, although similar sequences can be recognized in many sequenced genomes. Protein Sequence database searches and phylogenetic analyses indicate the absence of TAAC in cyanobacteria and its appearance early in the evolution of photosynthetic eukaryotes. The TAAC clade is composed of carriers found in land plants and some green algae, but no proteins from other photosynthetic taxa, such as red algae, brown algae, and diatoms. This implies that TAAC-like sequences arose only once before the divergence of green algae and land plants. Based on these findings, it is proposed that TAAC may have evolved in response to the need of a new activity in higher photosynthetic eukaryotes. This activity may provide the energy to drive reactions during biogenesis and turnover of photosynthetic complexes, which are heterogeneously distributed in a thylakoid membrane system composed of appressed and non-appressed regions.
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:Several 'super-complexes' of individual hetero-oligomeric membrane protein complexes, whose function is to facilitate intra-membrane electron and proton transfer and harvesting of light energy, have been previously characterized in the mitochondrial cristae and chloroplast thylakoid membranes. We report the presence of an intra-membrane super-complex dominated by the ATP-synthase, photosystem I (PSI) reaction-center complex and the ferredoxin-NADP+ Reductase (FNR) in the thylakoid membrane. The presence of the super-complex has been documented by mass spectrometry, clear-native PAGE and Western Blot analyses. This is the first documented presence of ATP synthase in a super-complex with the PSI reaction-center located in the non-appressed stromal domain of the thylakoid membrane.
Project description:We describe the identification of the first immunophilin associated with the photosynthetic membrane of chloroplasts. This complex 40 kDa immunophilin, designated TLP40 (thylakoid lumen PPIase), located in the lumen of the thylakoids, was found to play a dual role in photosynthesis involving both biogenesis and intraorganelle signalling. It originates in a single-copy nuclear gene, is made as a precursor of 49.2 kDa with a bipartite lumenal targeting transit peptide, and is characterized by a structure including a cyclophilin-like C-terminal segment of 20 kDa, a predicted N-terminal leucine zipper and a potential phosphatase-binding domain. It can exist in different oligomeric conformations and attach to the inner membrane surface. It is confined predominantly to the non-appressed thylakoid regions, the site of protein integration into the photosynthetic membrane. The isolated protein possesses peptidyl-prolyl cis-trans isomerase protein folding activity characteristic of immunophilins, but is not inhibited by cyclosporin A. TLP40 also exerts an effect on dephosphorylation of several key proteins of photosystem II, probably as a constituent of a transmembrane signal transduction chain. This first evidence for a direct role of immunophilins in a photoautotrophic process suggests that light-mediated protein phosphorylation in photosynthetic membranes and the role of the thylakoid lumen are substantially more complex than anticipated.
Project description:The chloroplast is the chlorophyll-containing organelle that produces energy through photosynthesis. Within the chloroplast is an intricate network of thylakoid membranes containing photosynthetic membrane proteins that mediate electron transport and generate chemical energy. Historically, electron microscopy (EM) has been a powerful tool for visualizing the macromolecular structure and organization of thylakoid membranes. However, an understanding of thylakoid membrane dynamics remains elusive because EM requires fixation and sectioning. To improve our knowledge of thylakoid membrane dynamics we need to consider at least two issues: (i) the live-cell imaging conditions needed to visualize active processes in vivo; and (ii) the spatial resolution required to differentiate the characteristics of thylakoid membranes. Here, we utilize three-dimensional structured illumination microscopy (3D-SIM) to explore the optimal imaging conditions for investigating the dynamics of thylakoid membranes in living plant and algal cells. We show that 3D-SIM is capable of examining broad characteristics of thylakoid structures in chloroplasts of the vascular plant Arabidopsis thaliana and distinguishing the structural differences between wild-type and mutant strains. Using 3D-SIM, we also visualize thylakoid organization in whole cells of the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. These data reveal that high light intensity changes thylakoid membrane structure in C. reinhardtii. Moreover, we observed the green alga Chromochloris zofingiensis and the moss Physcomitrella patens to show the applicability of 3D-SIM. This study demonstrates that 3D-SIM is a promising approach for studying the dynamics of thylakoid membranes in photoautotrophic organisms during photoacclimation processes.
Project description:In higher plant thylakoids, the heterogeneous distribution of photosynthetic protein complexes is a determinant for the formation of grana, stacks of membrane discs that are densely populated with Photosystem II (PSII) and its light harvesting complex (LHCII). PSII associates with LHCII to form the PSII-LHCII supercomplex, a crucial component for solar energy conversion. Here, we report a biochemical, structural and functional characterization of pairs of PSII-LHCII supercomplexes, which were isolated under physiologically-relevant cation concentrations. Using single-particle cryo-electron microscopy, we determined the three-dimensional structure of paired C2S2M PSII-LHCII supercomplexes at 14?Å resolution. The two supercomplexes interact on their stromal sides through a specific overlap between apposing LHCII trimers and via physical connections that span the stromal gap, one of which is likely formed by interactions between the N-terminal loops of two Lhcb4 monomeric LHCII subunits. Fast chlorophyll fluorescence induction analysis showed that paired PSII-LHCII supercomplexes are energetically coupled. Molecular dynamics simulations revealed that additional flexible physical connections may form between the apposing LHCII trimers of paired PSII-LHCII supercomplexes in appressed thylakoid membranes. Our findings provide new insights into how interactions between pairs of PSII-LHCII supercomplexes can link adjacent thylakoids to mediate the stacking of grana membranes.
Project description:Galactolipids represent the most abundant lipid class in thylakoid membranes, where oxygenic photosynthesis is performed. The identification of galactolipids at specific sites within photosynthetic complexes by x-ray crystallography implies specific roles for galactolipids during photosynthetic electron transport. The preference for galactose and not for the more abundant sugar glucose in thylakoid lipids and their specific roles in photosynthesis are not understood. Introduction of a bacterial glucosyltransferase from Chloroflexus aurantiacus into the galactolipid-deficient dgd1 mutant of Arabidopsis thaliana resulted in the accumulation of a glucose-containing lipid in the thylakoids. At the same time, the growth defect of the dgd1 mutant was complemented. However, the degree of trimerization of light-harvesting complex II and the photosynthetic quantum yield of transformed dgd1 plants were only partially restored. These results indicate that specific interactions of the galactolipid head group with photosynthetic protein complexes might explain the preference for galactose in thylakoid lipids of higher plants. Therefore, galactose in thylakoid lipids can be exchanged with glucose without severe effects on growth, but the presence of galactose is crucial to maintain maximal photosynthetic efficiency.
Project description:Thylakoid membranes isolated from leaves of two plant species, the chilling tolerant (CT) pea and chilling sensitive (CS) runner bean, were assessed for the composition of lipids, carotenoids as well as for the arrangement of photosynthetic complexes. The response to stress conditions was investigated in dark-chilled and subsequently photo-activated detached leaves of pea and bean. Thylakoids of both species have a similar level of monogalactosyldiacylglycerol (MGDG) and digalactosyldiacylglycerol (DGDG), but different sulfoquinovosyldiacylglycerol to phosphatidylglycerol (PG) ratio. In pea thylakoid fraction, the MGDG, DGDG and PG, have a higher double bond index (DBI), whereas bean thylakoids contain higher levels of high melting point PG. Furthermore, the lutein to the ?-carotene ratio is higher in bean thylakoids. Smaller protein/lipid ratio in pea than in bean thylakoids suggests different lipid-protein interactions in both species. The differences between species are also reflected by the course of temperature-dependent plots of chlorophyll fluorescence pointing various temperatures of the lipid phase transitions of pea and bean thylakoids. Our results showed higher fluidity of the thylakoid membrane network in pea than in bean in optimal temperature conditions. Dark-chilling decreases the photochemical activity and induces significant degradation of MGDG in bean but not in pea leaves. Similarly, substantial changes in the arrangement of photosynthetic complexes with increase in LHCII phosphorylation and disturbances of the thylakoid structure take place in bean thylakoids only. Changes in the physical properties of bean thylakoids are manifested by the conversion of a three-phase temperature-dependent plot to a one-phase plot. Subsequent photo-activation of chilled bean leaves caused a partial restoration of the photochemistry and of membrane physical properties, but not of the photosynthetic complexes arrangement nor the thylakoid network structure. Summarizing, the composition of the thylakoid lipid matrix of CT pea allows retaining the optimal fluidity of its chloroplast membranes under low temperatures. In contrast, the fluidity of CS bean thylakoids is drastically changed, leading to the reorganization of the supramolecular structure of the photosynthetic complexes and finally results in structural remodeling of the CS bean thylakoid network.