Our current understanding of the PSII reaction centre owes a great deal to comparisons to the simpler and better understood, purple bacterial reaction centre. Here we provide an overview of the similarities with a focus on charge separation and the electron acceptors. We go on to discuss some of the main differences between the two kinds of reaction centres that have been highlighted by the improving knowledge of PSII. We attempt to relate these differences to functional requirements of water splitting. Some are directly associated with that function, e.g. high oxidation potentials, while others are associated with regulation and protection against photodamage. The protective and regulatory functions are associated with the harsh chemistry performed during its normal function but also with requirements of the enzyme while it is undergoing assembly and repair. Key aspects of PSII reaction centre evolution are also addressed. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Photosystem II.
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