Molecular orbital study of the primary electron donor P700 of photosystem I based on a recent X-ray single crystal structure analysis

Martin Plato, Norbert Krauß, Petra Fromme, Wolfgang Lubitz

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48 Scopus citations


The X-ray structure analysis of photosystem (PS) I single crystals showed that the primary electron donor P700 is a heterodimer formed by one chlorophyll (Chl) a and one Chl a [Nature 411 (2001) 909]. The electronic structure of the cation radical P700 of the primary donor, which is created in the charge separation process, has been probed by semiempirical molecular orbital calculations including spin polarization effects (RHF-INDO/SP). The calculations, which were based on the X-ray structure, clearly show that P700 is a supermolecule formed by two chlorophyll species. They furthermore predict an asymmetrical charge and spin density distribution in favor of the monomeric Chl a half of this dimer in accordance with results from earlier EPR and ENDOR studies [J. Phys. Chem. B 105 (2000) 1225]. The stepwise inclusion of various electrostatic interactions of the dimer with its nearest surrounding (one threonine forming a hydrogen bond to the keto group of Chl a and two histidines liganding the Mg atoms of the two chlorophylls) leads to a systematic enhancement of this electronic asymmetry yielding a spin density ratio of almost 5:1 as also found experimentally. A large part of this value is caused by spin polarization effects. This result is only weakly affected by the electrostatic field of more remote amino acid residues and other pigment molecules ('accessory' Chl a molecules) present in PS I. A separate group of calculations involving local geometry optimizations by energy minimization techniques yields a further enhancement of the spin density asymmetry. A particularly strong effect is obtained by allowing for variations of the geometry of the vinyl groups on both chlorophylls of the P700 dimer. Theoretical results for individual isotropic proton and nitrogen hyperfine coupling constants, showing a satisfactory agreement with experimental findings, are also presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)483-499
Number of pages17
JournalChemical Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1 2003


  • Photosystem I
  • Primary donor cation radical P700
  • Semiempirical INDO calculations
  • Spin density distribution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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