Nature, Vol.589, No.7841, 310-+, 2021
Ultrafast structural changes within a photosynthetic reaction centre
Photosynthetic reaction centres harvest the energy content of sunlight by transporting electrons across an energy-transducing biological membrane. Here we use time-resolved serial femtosecond crystallography(1) using an X-ray free-electron laser(2) to observe light-induced structural changes in the photosynthetic reaction centre of Blastochloris viridis on a timescale of picoseconds. Structural perturbations first occur at the special pair of chlorophyll molecules of the photosynthetic reaction centre that are photo-oxidized by light. Electron transfer to the menaquinone acceptor on the opposite side of the membrane induces a movement of this cofactor together with lower amplitude protein rearrangements. These observations reveal how proteins use conformational dynamics to stabilize the charge-separation steps of electron-transfer reactions. Time-resolved serial femtosecond crystallography is used to reveal the structural changes that stabilize the charge-separation steps of electron-transfer reactions in the photosynthetic reaction centre of Blastochloris viridis on a timescale of picoseconds.