Nature, Vol.517, No.7532, 99-U265, 2015
Native structure of photosystem II at 1.95 angstrom resolution viewed by femtosecond X-ray pulses
Photosynthesis converts light energy into biologically useful chemical energy vital to life on Earth. The initial reaction of photosynthesis takes place in photosystem II (PSII), a 700-kilodalton homodimeric membrane protein complex that catalyses photo-oxidation of water into dioxygen through an S-state cycle of the oxygen evolving complex (OEC). The structure of PSII has been solved by X-ray diffraction (XRD) at 1.9 angstrom resolution, which revealed that the OEC is a Mn4CaO5-cluster coordinated by a well defined protein environment(1). However, extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) studies showed that the manganese cations in the OEC are easily reduced by X-ray irradiation(2), and slight differences were found in the Mn-Mn distances determined by XRD1, EXAFS(3-7) and theoretical studies(8-14). Here we report a 'radiation-damage-free' structure of PSII from Thermosynechococcus vulcanus in the S-1 state at a resolution of 1.95 angstroms using femtosecond X-ray pulses of the SPring-8 angstrom compact free-electron laser (SACLA) and hundreds of large, highly isomorphous PSII crystals. Compared with the structure from XRD, the OEC in the X-ray free electron laser structure has Mn-Mn distances that are shorter by 0.1-0.2 angstroms. The valences of each manganese atom were tentatively assigned as Mn1D(III), Mn2C(IV), Mn3B(IV) and Mn4A(III), based on the average Mn-ligand distances and analysis of the Jahn-Teller axis on Mn(III). One of the oxo-bridged oxygens, O5, has significantly longer distances to Mn than do the other oxo-oxygen atoms, suggesting that O5 is a hydroxide ion instead of a normal oxygen dianion and therefore may serve as one of the substrate oxygen atoms. These findings provide a structural basis for the mechanism of oxygen evolution, and we expect that this structure will provide a blueprint for the design of artificial catalysts for water oxidation.