In photosynthesis solar light is harvested by an antenna, the energy is transferred to the photosynthetic reaction center where a charge separation occurs. These processes occur on an ultrafast timescale and result in a stable product. The photosynthetic apparatus consists of a complex set of pigment-proteins that perform these delicate processes with a quantum efficiency close to 1. Proteins are intrinsically disordered and display dynamics over a fast range oof times, from femtoseconds to seconds. In this proposal I wish to explore how this dynamic protein matrix facilitates or maybe even drives the primary events of photosynthesis. Together with my co-investigator Bruno Robert I plan to investigate four aspects of how the protein matrix may affect this important biological process. In the first project we will study if the charge separation in Photosystem 2 occurs along multiple pathways, depending on the realization of the disorder. Project 2 concerns the possible role of quantum coherence in charge separation in Photosystem 2. In project 3 we will investigate how the dynamic protein matrix maybe even actively stabilizes the early charge separation. Project 4 aims to find out how functional transitions in photosynthetic proteins are coupled to conformational changes. The latter relates to the idea that the peripheral light-harvesting complex of plants, LHCII, plays a role in photoprotection by switching between a light-harvesting state and a quenching state. The project combines a number of state-of-the-art biophysical approaches and furthermore aims to develop new techniques: 2-dimensional electronic spectroscopy and plasmon wave resonance spectroscopy. The final result will deliver a unique view on how the physics of protein matter manifests itself in biology.
Fields of science
Call for proposal
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Funding SchemeERC-AG - ERC Advanced Grant