Molecular crowding and order in photosynthetic membranes

Trends Plant Sci. 2008 May;13(5):201-7. doi: 10.1016/j.tplants.2008.03.001. Epub 2008 Apr 11.


The integrity and maintenance of the photosynthetic apparatus in thylakoid membranes of higher plants requires lateral mobility of their components between stacked grana thylakoids and unstacked stroma lamellae. Computer simulations based on realistic protein densities suggest serious problems for lateral protein and plastoquinone diffusion especially in grana membranes, owing to strong retardation by protein complexes. It has been suggested that three structural features of grana thylakoids ensure efficient lateral transport: the organization of protein complexes into supercomplexes; the arrangement of supercomplexes into structured assemblies, which facilitates diffusion process in crowded membranes; the limitation of the diameter of grana discs to less than approximately 500 nm, which keeps diffusion times short enough to support regulation of light harvesting and repair of photodamaged photosystem II.

MeSH terms

  • Diffusion
  • Photosynthetic Reaction Center Complex Proteins / metabolism*
  • Plant Cells*
  • Plastoquinone / metabolism*
  • Thylakoids / metabolism*


  • Photosynthetic Reaction Center Complex Proteins
  • Plastoquinone