Control of electron transfer by protein dynamics in photosynthetic reaction centers

Michael Gorka, Dmitry A. Cherepanov, Alexey Yu Semenov, John H. Golbeck

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Trehalose and glycerol are low molecular mass sugars/polyols that have found widespread use in the protection of native protein states, in both short- and long-term storage of biological materials, and as a means of understanding protein dynamics. These myriad uses are often attributed to their ability to form an amorphous glassy matrix. In glycerol, the glass is formed only at cryogenic temperatures, while in trehalose, the glass is formed at room temperature, but only upon dehydration of the sample. While much work has been carried out to elucidate a mechanistic view of how each of these matrices interact with proteins to provide stability, rarely have the effects of these two independent systems been directly compared to each other. This review aims to compile decades of research on how different glassy matrices affect two types of photosynthetic proteins: (i) the Type II bacterial reaction center from Rhodobacter sphaeroides and (ii) the Type I Photosystem I reaction center from cyanobacteria. By comparing aggregate data on electron transfer, protein structure, and protein dynamics, it appears that the effects of these two distinct matrices are remarkably similar. Both seem to cause a “tightening” of the solvation shell when in a glassy state, resulting in severely restricted conformational mobility of the protein and associated water molecules. Thus, trehalose appears to be able to mimic, at room temperature, nearly all of the effects on protein dynamics observed in low temperature glycerol glasses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)425-468
Number of pages44
JournalCritical Reviews in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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