P700: The primary electron donor of photosystem I

Andrew Webber, Wolfgang Lubitz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

139 Scopus citations


The primary electron donor of photosystem I, P700, is a chlorophyll species that in its excited state has a potential of approximately -1.2 V. The precise chemical composition and electronic structure of P700 is still unknown. Recent evidence indicates that P700 is a dimer of one chlorophyll (Chl) a and one Chl a′. The Chl a′ and Chl a are axially coordinated by His residues provided by protein subunits PsaA and PsaB, respectively. The Chl a′, but not the Chl a, is also H-bonded to the protein. The H-bonding is likely responsible for selective insertion of Chl a′ into the reaction center. EPR studies of P700 in frozen solution and single crystals indicate a large asymmetry in the electron spin and charge distribution towards one Chl of the dimer. Molecular orbital calculations indicate that H-bonding will specifically stabilize the Chl a′-side of the dimer, suggesting that the unpaired electron would predominantly reside on the Chl a. This is supported by results of specific mutagenesis of the PsaA and PsaB axial His residues, which show that only mutations of the PsaB subunit significantly alter the hyperfine coupling constants associated with a single Chl molecule. The PsaB mutants also alter the microwave induced triplet-minus-singlet spectrum indicating that the triplet state is localized on the same Chl. Excitonic coupling between the two Chl a of P700 is weak due to the distance and overlap of the porphyrin planes. Evidence of excitonic coupling is found in PsaB mutants which show a new bleaching band at 665 nm that likely represents an increased intensity of the upper exciton band of P700. Additional properties of P700 that may give rise to its unusually low potential are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-79
Number of pages19
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Bioenergetics
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Oct 30 2001


  • Electron nuclear double resonance
  • P700
  • Photosystem I

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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