Site-directed mutagenesis has been used to change conserved histidine residues in hydrophobic regions of the photosystem II chlorophyll-binding protein CP47 in the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. Nine mutants with one, four mutants with two, and four mutants with three His mutations in CP47 have been generated and characterized. Mutation of any one of seven different His residues to Tyr leads to slower photoautotrophic growth and apparent destabilization of the PS II complex. Mutations introduced into multiple His residues in one mutant exhibited a cumulative effect. Replacing His by Asn leads to a much smaller effect than observed upon mutation to Tyr. This is consistent with the hypothesis that the mutated His residues are chlorophyll ligands: Asn can substitute as chlorophyll ligand, whereas Tyr cannot. Further evidence supporting a role of the mutated His residues in chlorophyll binding comes from measurements of the light intensity needed to half-saturate oxygen evolution. All His mutants with impaired PS II function needed higher light intensities for half-saturation than wild type. A possible explanation for this decrease in antenna efficiency in the mutants is a loss of the Mg in the chlorophyll due to a loss of the fifth ligand, and thus the formation of a pheophytin molecule in the antenna. We conclude that conserved His residues in hydrophobic regions of CP47 indeed are chlorophyll ligands and that these ligands are important for PS II stability as well as efficient antenna function.
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