Oxygenic photosynthesis is the principal converter of sunlight into chemical energy. Cyanobacteria and plants provide aerobic life with oxygen, food, fuel, fibers, and platform chemicals. Four multisubunit membrane proteins are involved: photosystem I (PSI), photosystem II (PSII), cytochrome b6f (cyt b6f), and ATP synthase (FOF1). ATP synthase is likewise a key enzyme of cell respiration. Over three billion years, the basic machinery of oxygenic photosynthesis and respiration has been perfected to minimize wasteful reactions. The proton-driven ATP synthase is embedded in a proton tight-coupling membrane. It is composed of two rotary motors/generators, FO and F1, which do not slip against each other. The proton-driven FO and the ATP-synthesizing F1 are coupled via elastic torque transmission. Elastic transmission decouples the two motors in kinetic detail but keeps them perfectly coupled in thermodynamic equilibrium and (time-averaged) under steady turnover. Elastic transmission enables operation with different gear ratios in different organisms.
Keywords: ATP synthesis; FOF1 ATPase; chloroplasts; cyanobacteria; photosynthesis; proton transfer.