The structure of a mutant photosynthetic reaction center shows unexpected changes in main chain orientations and quinone position

Biochemistry. 2002 May 14;41(19):5998-6007. doi: 10.1021/bi0118963.


We report on the unexpected structural changes caused by substitution of acidic amino acids in the Q(B) binding pocket of the bacterial photosynthetic reaction center by alanines. The mutations targeted key residues L212Glu and L213Asp of this transmembrane protein-cofactor complex. The amino acid substitutions in the L212Ala-L213Ala mutant reaction center ("AA") were known to affect the delivery of protons after the light-induced generation of Q(B)(-), which renders the AA strain incapable of photosynthetic growth. The AA structure not only revealed side chain rearrangements but also showed movement of the main chain segments that are contiguous with the mutation sites. The alanine substitutions caused an expansion of the cavity rather than its collapse. In addition, Q(B) is found mainly in the binding site that is proximal to the iron-ligand complex (closest to Q(A)) as opposed to its distal binding site (furthest from Q(A)) in the structure of the wild-type reaction center. The observed rearrangements in the structure of the AA reaction center establish a new balance between charged residues of an interactive network near Q(B). This structurally and electrostatically altered complex forms the basis for future understanding of the structural basis for proton transfer in active reaction centers which retain the alanine substitutions but carry a distant compensatory mutation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Structure
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Photosynthetic Reaction Center Complex Proteins / chemistry*
  • Photosynthetic Reaction Center Complex Proteins / genetics*
  • Quinones / chemistry
  • Rhodobacter sphaeroides / chemistry
  • Rhodobacter sphaeroides / genetics
  • Static Electricity


  • Photosynthetic Reaction Center Complex Proteins
  • Quinones