Simulation of grana stacking in a model membrane system. Mediation by a purified light-harvesting pigment-protein complex from chloroplasts

John E. Mullet, Charles J. Arntzen

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166 Scopus citations


An isolated light-harvesting pigment-protein complex contains polypeptides which bind chlorophyll a and b. The individual complexes can be purified from detergent-solubilized membranes. The isolated light-harvesting complex, when dialyzed to remove detergents, was examined by freeze-fracture electron microscopy. The material consisted of planar sheets of 80-Å subunits which interacted via an edge-to-edge contact. Addition of cations caused the planar light-harvesting complex sheets to become tightly appressed in multilamellar stacks, with distinct subunits still visible within each lamellar sheet. A transition of particle organization from random to crystalline occurred in parallel with the cation-induced lamellar association. Treatment of the dialyzed light-harvesting complex subunits with low levels of the proteolytic enzyme trypsin removed a 2000 molecular weight segment of the major polypeptide of the light-harvesting complex and blocked all subsequent cation-induced changes in structural organization of the isolated light-harvesting complex lamellar sheets. To gain further evidence for mechanisms of cation effects upon the organization of the light-harvesting complex in native membranes, the light-harvesting complex was incorporated into uncharged (phosphatidylcholine) lipid vesicles. The protein complexes spanned the lipid bilayer and were arranged in either a random pattern or in hexagonal crystalline lattices. Addition of either monovalent or divalent cations to 'low-salt' (20 mM monovalent cation) vesicles containing light-harvesting complex caused extensive regions of membrane appression to appear. It is concluded that this cation-induced membrane appression is mediated by surface-exposed segments of the light-harvesting complex since (a) phosphatidylcholine vesicles themselves did not undergo cation-induced aggregation, and (b) mild trypsin digestion of the surface-exposed regions of the light-harvesting complex blocked cation-induced lamellar appression. The particles in the appressed vesicle membranes tended to form long, linear arrays of particles, with occasional mixed quasi-crystalline arrays with an angular displacement near 72°. Surface-mediated interactions among light-harvesting complex subunits of different membranes are, therefore, related to changes in structural organization and interaction of the particles within the lipid phase of the membrane. Numerous previous studies have implicated the involvement of the light-harvesting complex in mediating grana stocking in intact chloroplast membranes. The data presented herein provide a simulation of the membrane appression phenomena using a single class of chloroplast-derived membrane subunits. The data demonstrate that specific surface-localized regions of the light-harvesting complex are involved in membrane-membrane interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)100-117
Number of pages18
JournalBBA - Bioenergetics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1 1980
Externally publishedYes


  • (Chloroplast)
  • Grana stacking
  • Light-harvesting complex
  • Model membrane
  • Thylakoid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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