Structural comparison of allophycocyanin variants reveals the molecular basis for their spectral differences

Christopher J. Gisriel, Eduard Elias, Gaozhong Shen, Nathan T. Soulier, Gary W. Brudvig, Roberta Croce, Donald A. Bryant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Allophycocyanins are phycobiliproteins that absorb red light and transfer the energy to the reaction centers of oxygenic photosynthesis in cyanobacteria and red algae. Recently, it was shown that some allophycocyanins absorb far-red light and that one subset of these allophycocyanins, comprising subunits from the ApcD4 and ApcB3 subfamilies (FRL-AP), form helical nanotubes. The lowest energy absorbance maximum of the oligomeric ApcD4-ApcB3 complexes occurs at 709 nm, which is unlike allophycocyanin (AP; ApcA-ApcB) and allophycocyanin B (AP-B; ApcD-ApcB) trimers that absorb maximally at ~ 650 nm and ~ 670 nm, respectively. The molecular bases of the different spectra of AP variants are presently unclear. To address this, we structurally compared FRL-AP with AP and AP-B, performed spectroscopic analyses on FRL-AP, and leveraged computational approaches. We show that among AP variants, the α-subunit constrains pyrrole ring A of its phycocyanobilin chromophore to different extents, and the coplanarity of ring A with rings B and C sets a baseline for the absorbance maximum of the chromophore. Upon oligomerization, the α-chromophores of all AP variants exhibit a red shift of the absorbance maximum of ~ 25 to 30 nm and band narrowing. We exclude excitonic coupling in FRL-AP as the basis for this red shift and extend the results to discuss AP and AP-B. Instead, we attribute these spectral changes to a conformational alteration of pyrrole ring D, which becomes more coplanar with rings B and C upon oligomerization. This study expands the molecular understanding of light-harvesting attributes of phycobiliproteins and will aid in designing phycobiliproteins for biotechnological applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPhotosynthesis research
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology

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