Modulating the Redox Potential of the Stable Electron Acceptor, QB, in Mutagenized Photosystem II Reaction Centers

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One of the unique features of electron transfer processes in photosystem II (PSII) reaction centers (RC) is the exclusive transfer of electrons down only one of the two parallel cofactor branches. In contrast to the RC core polypeptides (psaA and psaB) of photosystem I (PSI), where electron transfer occurs down both parallel redox-active cofactor branches, there is greater protein‚àícofactor asymmetry between the PSII RC core polypeptides (D1 and D2). We have focused on the identification of protein‚àícofactor relationships that determine the branch along which primary charge separation occurs (P680+/pheophytin‚àí(Pheo)). We have previously shown that mutagenesis of the strong hydrogen-bonding residue, D1-E130, to less polar residues (D1-E130Q,H,L) shifted the midpoint potential of the PheoD1/PheoD1‚àí couple to more negative values, reducing the quantum yield of primary charge separation. We did not observe, however, electron transfer down the inactive branch in D1-E130 mutants. The protein residue corresponding to D1-E130 on the inactive branch is D2-Q129 which presumably has a reduced hydrogen-bonding interaction with PheoD2 relative to the D1-E130 residue with PheoD1. Analysis of the recent 2.9 {\AA} cyanobacterial PSII crystal structure indicated, however, that the D2-Q129 residue was too distant from the PheoD2 headgroup to serve as a possible hydrogen bond donor and directly impact its midpoint potential as well as potentially determine the directionality of electron transfer. Our objective was to characterize the function of this highly conserved inactive branch residue by replacing it with a nonconservative leucine or a conservative histidine residue. Measurements of Chl fluorescence decay kinetics and thermoluminescence studies indicate that the mutagenesis of D2-Q129 decreases the redox gap between QA and QB due to a lowering of the redox potential of QB. The resulting increased yield of S2QB‚àí charge recombination in the D2-Q129 mutants leads to an increased susceptibility to photoinhibitory light presumably due to 3P680-mediated oxidative damage. The results indicate that the D2-Q129 residue plays a critical role in stabilizing the charge-separated state in PSII and further documents the structural and functional asymmetry between the two cofactor branches in PSII.

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