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Dynamic flexibility in the structure and function of photosystem II in higher plant thylakoid membranes: the grana enigma

Anderson, Jan M., Chow, Wah Soon, De Las Rivas, Javier
Photosynthesis research 2008 v.98 no.1-3 pp. 575-587
Algae, carbon, electrostatic interactions, entropy, environmental factors, grana, molecular dynamics, photosystem II, proteins, screening, thylakoids
Grana are not essential for photosynthesis, yet they are ubiquitous in higher plants and in the recently evolved Charaphyta algae; hence grana role and its need is still an intriguing enigma. This article discusses how the grana provide integrated and multifaceted functional advantages, by facilitating mechanisms that fine-tune the dynamics of the photosynthetic apparatus, with particular implications for photosystem II (PSII). This dynamic flexibility of photosynthetic membranes is advantageous in plants responding to ever-changing environmental conditions, from darkness or limiting light to saturating light and sustained or intermittent high light. The thylakoid dynamics are brought about by structural and organizational changes at the level of the overall height and number of granal stacks per chloroplast, molecular dynamics within the membrane itself, the partition gap between appressed membranes within stacks, the aqueous lumen encased by the continuous thylakoid membrane network, and even the stroma bathing the thylakoids. The structural and organizational changes of grana stacks in turn are driven by physicochemical forces, including entropy, at work in the chloroplast. In response to light, attractive van der Waals interactions and screening of electrostatic repulsion between appressed grana thylakoids across the partition gap and most probably direct protein interactions across the granal lumen (PSII extrinsic proteins OEEp–OEEp, particularly PsbQ–PsbQ) contribute to the integrity of grana stacks. We propose that both the light-induced contraction of the partition gap and the granal lumen elicit maximisation of entropy in the chloroplast stroma, thereby enhancing carbon fixation and chloroplast protein synthesizing capacity. This spatiotemporal dynamic flexibility in the structure and function of active and inactive PSIIs within grana stacks in higher plant chloroplasts is vital for the optimization of photosynthesis under a wide range of environmental and developmental conditions.