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Crystal structure of spinach major light-harvesting complex at 2.72 Å resolution


The major light-harvesting complex of photosystem II (LHC-II) serves as the principal solar energy collector in the photosynthesis of green plants and presumably also functions in photoprotection under high-light conditions. Here we report the first X-ray structure of LHC-II in icosahedral proteoliposome assembly at atomic detail. One asymmetric unit of a large R32 unit cell contains ten LHC-II monomers. The 14 chlorophylls (Chl) in each monomer can be unambiguously distinguished as eight Chla and six Chlb molecules. Assignment of the orientation of the transition dipole moment of each chlorophyll has been achieved. All Chlb are located around the interface between adjacent monomers, and together with Chla they are the basis for efficient light harvesting. Four carotenoid-binding sites per monomer have been observed. The xanthophyll-cycle carotenoid at the monomer–monomer interface may be involved in the non-radiative dissipation of excessive energy, one of the photoprotective strategies that have evolved in plants.

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Figure 1: Electron-density map at 2.72 Å resolution.
Figure 2: Organization and packing of the icosahedral particles.
Figure 3: Secondary structure of monomeric LHC-II apoprotein and trimerization.
Figure 4: Pigments in the LHC-II trimer and monomer.
Figure 5: Structure-based non-photochemical chlorophyll fluorescence quenching model in oligomeric LHC-II.


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We thank D. C. Liang and the late P. S. Tang for their efforts in initiating this project; X. C. Gu for discussions; N. Sakabe and K. Sakabe at PF (Tsukuba, Japan) and the staff at BSRF (Beijing, China) for their support during data collection at the synchrotron facilities. This research was financially supported by the National Key Research Development Project of China, the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the National Key Special Research Program and the Knowledge Innovation Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

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Correspondence to Wenrui Chang.

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Supplementary Tables

Supplementary Table 1: Coordinations of chlorophylls and their interactions with local environments; Supplementary Table 2: Interaction between chlorophylls with strong excitonic coupling; Supplementary Table 3: Interactions between carotenoids and chlorophylls. (DOC 74 kb)

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Liu, Z., Yan, H., Wang, K. et al. Crystal structure of spinach major light-harvesting complex at 2.72 Å resolution. Nature 428, 287–292 (2004).

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