Entropy-assisted stacking of thylakoid membranes

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Abstract

Chloroplasts in plants and some green algae contain a continuous thylakoid membrane system that is structurally differentiated into stacked granal membranes interconnected by unstacked thylakoids, the stromal lamellae. Experiments were conducted to test the hypothesis that the thermodynamic tendency to increase entropy in chloroplasts contributes to thylakoid stacking to form grana. We show that the addition of bovine serum albumin or dextran, two very different water-soluble macromolecules, to a suspension of envelope-free chloroplasts with initially unstacked thylakoids induced thylakoid stacking. This novel restacking of thylakoids occurred spontaneously, accompanied by lateral segregation of PSII from PSI, thereby mimicking the natural situation. We suggest that such granal formation, induced by the macromolecules, is partly explained as a means of generating more volume for the diffusion of macromolecules in a crowded stromal environment, i.e., greater entropy overall. This mechanism may be relevant in vivo where the stroma has a very high concentration of enzymes of carbon metabolism, and where high metabolic fluxes are required. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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Kim, E. H., Wah, S. C., Horton, P., & Anderson, J. M. (2005). Entropy-assisted stacking of thylakoid membranes. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Bioenergetics, 1708(2), 187–195. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbabio.2005.03.011

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