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Scientists swap key metal necessary for turning sunlight into chemical energy.

Byline: ANI

Washington, May 12 (ANI): A large collaboration between various universities in the US has come up with a surprising twist to photosynthesis by swapping a key metal necessary for turning sunlight into chemical energy.

In the heart of every green leaf are pigments called chlorophyll, which not only give most plants their color, but also along with the yellow and orange carotenoid Carotenoid

Any of a class of yellow, orange, red, and purple pigments that are widely distributed in nature. Carotenoids are generally fat-soluble unless they are complexed with proteins.
 pigments, are key molecules that harvest light across the spectrum.

In all plant chlorophylls, only one particular metal, magnesium, is held tightly within the molecule's center.

During photosynthesis, plants have two photosystems that work in tandem Adv. 1. in tandem - one behind the other; "ride tandem on a bicycle built for two"; "riding horses down the path in tandem"
: photosystem Photosystems (ancient Greek: phos = light and systema = assembly) are protein complexes involved in photosynthesis. They are found in the thylakoid membranes of plants, algae and cyanobacteria (in plants and algae these are located in the chloroplasts), or in the  I and photosystem II.

To peer at the inner workings of photosynthesis, the team used a hardy, well-studied, photosynthetic bacterium called Rhodobacter sphaeroides.

An organism similar to this purple bacterium was likely one of the earliest photosynthetic bacteria to evolve.

The center stage of photosynthesis is the reaction center, where light energy is funneled into specialized chlorophyll binding proteins.

"One of our research strategies is to introduce mutations into the bacteria and study how these affect the energy conversion efficiency of the reaction center," said Su Lin This article is about the San Diego Zoo panda cub. For the first panda brought to United States, see Su-Lin.
Su Lin is a female giant panda born at the San Diego Zoo on August 2, 2005. She is the third cub born to Bai Yun.
, senior researcher at ASU's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Biodesign Institute The Biodesign Institute is a center specializing in bioscience infrastructure at Arizona State University. It is led by Dr. George Poste, an established leader in international science with extensive experience in academia, industry and government. , and lead author of the study.

"Carefully-designed aberrations provide extensive information about the normal mechanism of energy conversion in reaction centers, just like studying a disease clarifies the parameters of health for the involved biochemical pathways and tissues. From this, we can learn a lot about the most basic mechanisms of photosynthesis," she added.

The reactions that convert light to chemical energy happen in a millionth of a millionth of a second, which makes experimental observation extremely challenging.

A premier ultrafast laser spectroscopic spec·tro·scope  
An instrument for producing and observing spectra.

 detection system that Lin has built, with the sponsorship of the National Science Foundation, acts like a high-speed motion picture camera motion picture camera: see under camera. .

It splits the light spectrum into infinitesimally in·fin·i·tes·i·mal  
1. Immeasurably or incalculably minute.

2. Mathematics Capable of having values approaching zero as a limit.

 discrete slivers, allowing the group to capture vast numbers of ultrafast frames from the components of these exceedingly rapid reactions.

These frames are then mathematically assembled, allowing the group to make a figurative 'movie' of the energy transfer events of photosynthesis.

"The electron transfer driving force can be determined by either the properties of the metal cofactors themselves or through their interaction with the protein," said Lin. In the case of the zinc reaction center, the driving force is regulated through the coordination of the metal," she added.

The results may enable researchers to explore a deeper understanding of the structure, function, and evolution of photosynthesis reaction centers in photosystems I and II. (ANI)

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Publication:Asian News International
Date:May 12, 2009
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