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Research Zernike (ZIAM) Berendsen Center for Multiscale Modeling and Material Design

Natural Light Harvesting Systems

Photosynthesis is the extremely important process in which solar energy is harvested and converted into chemical energy. Virtually all life on earth is dependent on this process. The light-dependent photosynthetic reactions take place in the so called thylakoid membrane, which is an internal membrane of the chloroplast. This membrane is composed of some very special glycolipids and hosts the protein complexes involved in photosynthesis. The length and time scales at which photosynthesis occurs make it challenging to study it experimentally, and a multiscale modeling approach is needed to understand the process from the initial capturing of light and water splitting reactions, to the dynamic reorganization of the photosystem and its antenae complexes into supercomplexes.

Coarse-grained MD model of the Photosystem II complex embedded in a thylakoid membrane
Coarse-grained MD model of the Photosystem II complex embedded in a thylakoid membrane

In the MD group, we have contructed a coarse-grain (CG) model of the Photosystem II (PSII) protein complex. PSII harvests solar light and produces the oxygen we breathe, it is therefore an extremely important protein. PSII is embedded in the thylakoid membrane. In order to better understand the behaviour of PSII, we have studied the thylakoid membrane by itself to see if the different lipids mix well and to study their phase behavior [1]. Next, we investigated the stability of the different subunits of PSII, the cofactor mobility and differences between the PSII dimer and monomer [2]. Additionally, we revealed the pathways of entrance and exit of plastoquinone and plastoquinol, the electron carriers [3].

Key publications:

  • [1] F.J. van Eerden, D.H. de Jong, A.H de Vries, T.A. Wassenaar, S.J. Marrink. Characterization of thylakoid lipid membranes from cyanobacteria and higher plants by molecular dynamics simulations. BBA Biomembranes, 1848:1319–1330, 2015.
  • [2] F.J. van Eerden, T. van den Berg, P.W.J.M. Frederix, D.H. de Jong, X. Periole, S.J. Marrink. Molecular dynamics of photosystem II embedded in the thylakoid membrane. JPCB, 121:3237–3249,2017. open access
  • [3] F.J. van Eerden et al., submitted.
Last modified:28 April 2017 4.23 p.m.