Evidence for the role of surface-exposed segments of the light-harvesting complex in cation-mediated control of chloroplast structure and function

Katherine E. Steinback, John J. Burke, Charles J. Arntzen

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96 Scopus citations


Chloroplast membranes contain a light-harvesting pigment-protein complex (LHC) which binds chlorophylls a and b. A mild trypsin digestion of intact thylakoid membranes has been utilized to specifically alter the apparent molecular weights of polypeptides of this complex. The modified membrane preparations were analyzed for altered functional and structural properties. Cation-induced changes in room temperature fluorescence intensity and low temperature chlorophyll fluorescence emission spectra, and cation regulation of the quantum yield of photosystem I and II partial reactions at limiting light were lost following the trypsin-induced alteration of the LHC. Electron microscopy revealed that cations can neither maintain nor promote grana stacking in membranes which have been subjected to mild trypsin treatment. Freeze-fracture analysis of these membranes showed no significant differences in particle density or average particle size of membrane subunits on the EF fracture face; structural features of the modified lamellae were comparable to membranes which had been unstacked in a "low salt" buffer. Digitonin digestion of trypsin-treated membranes in the presence of cations followed by differential centrifugation resulted in a subchloroplast fractionation pattern similar to that observed when control chloroplasts were detergent treated in cation-free medium. We conclude that: (a) the initial action of trypsin at the thylakoid membrane surface of pea chloroplasts was the specific alteration of the LHC polypeptides, (b) the segment of the LHC polypeptides which was altered by trypsin is necessary for cation-mediated grana stacking and cation regulation of membrane subunit distribution, and (c) cation regulation of excitation energy distribution between photosystem I and II involves the participation of polypeptide segments of the LHC which are exposed at the membrane surface.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)546-557
Number of pages12
JournalArchives of Biochemistry and Biophysics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 1979
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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