Pigment protein complexes and the concept of the photosynthetic unit: Chlorophyll complexes and phycobilisomes

Photosynth Res. 1996 May;48(1-2):47-53. doi: 10.1007/BF00040995.


The photosynthetic unit includes the reaction centers (RC 1 and RC 2) and the light-harvesting complexes which contribute to evolution of one O2 molecule. The light-harvesting complexes, that greatly expand the absorptance capacity of the reactions, have evolved along three principal lines. First, in green plants distinct chlorophyll (Chl) a/b-binding intrinsic membrane complexes are associated with RC 1 and RC 2. The Chl a/b-binding complexes may add about 200 additional chromophores to RC 2. Second, cyanobacteria and red algae have a significant type of antenna (with RC 2) in the form of phycobilisomes. A phycobilisome, depending on the size and phycobiliprotein composition adds from 700 to 2300 light-absorbing chromophores. Red algae also have a sizable Chl a-binding complex associated with RC 1, contributing an additional 70 chromophores. Third, in chromophytes a variety of carotenoid-Chl-complexes are found. Some are found associated with RC 1 where they may greatly enhance the absorptance capacity. Association of complexes with RC 2 has been more difficult to ascertain, but is also expected in chromophytes. The apoprotein framework of the complexes provides specific chromophore attachment sites, which assures a directional energy transfer whithin complexes and between complexes and reaction centers. The major Chl-binding antenna proteins generally have a size of 16-28 kDa, whether of chlorophytes, chromophytes, or rhodophytes. High sequence homology observed in two of three transmembrane regions, and in putative chlorophyll-binding residues, suggests that the complexes are related and probably did not evolve from widely divergent polyphyletic lines.