Electron transfer kinetics in photosynthetic reaction centers embedded in trehalose glasses: Trapping of conformational substates at room temperature

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We report on room temperature electron transfer in the reaction center (RC) complex purified from Rhodobacter sphaeroides. The protein was embedded in trehalose-water systems of different trehalose/water ratios. This enabled us to get new insights on the relationship between RC conformational dynamics and long-range electron transfer. In particular, we measured the kinetics of electron transfer from the primary reduced quinone acceptor (QA-) to the primary photo oxidized donor (P+), by time-resolved absorption spectroscopy, as a function of the matrix composition. The composition was evaluated either by weighing (liquid samples) or by near infrared spectroscopy (highly viscous or solid glasses). Deconvolution of the observed, nonexponential kinetics required a continuous spectrum of rate constants. The average rate constant ((k)) = 8.7 s-1 in a 28% (w/w) trehalose solution) increases smoothly by increasing the trehalose/water ratio. In solid glasses, at trehalose/water ratios ≥97%, an abrupt (k) increase is observed ((k) = 26.6 s-1 in the driest solid sample). A dramatic broadening of the rate distribution function parallels the above sudden (k) increase. Both effects fully revert upon rehydration of the glass. We compared the kinetics observed at room temperature in extensively dried water-trehalose matrices with the ones measured in glycerol-water mixtures at cryogenic temperatures and conclude that, in solid trehalose-water glasses, the thermal fluctuations among conformational substates are inhibited. This was inferred from the large broadening of the rate constant distribution for electron transfer obtained in solid glasses, which was due to the free energy distribution barriers having become quasi static. Accordingly, the RC relaxation from dark-adapted to light-adapted conformation, which follows primary charge separation at room temperature, is progressively hindered over the time scale of P+QA- charge recombination, upon decreasing the water content. In solid trehalose-water glasses the electron transfer process resulted much more affected than in RC dried in the absence of sugar. This indicated a larger hindering of the internal dynamics in trehalose-coated RC, notwithstanding the larger amount of residual water present in comparison with samples dried in the absence of sugar.




Palazzo, G., Mallardi, A., Hochkoeppler, A., Cordone, L., & Venturoli, G. (2002). Electron transfer kinetics in photosynthetic reaction centers embedded in trehalose glasses: Trapping of conformational substates at room temperature. Biophysical Journal, 82(2), 558–568. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0006-3495(02)75421-0

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