The role of far-red spectral states in the energy regulation of phycobilisomes

26 Mar 2019

The main light-harvesting pigment-protein complex of cyanobacteria and certain algae is the phycobilisome, which harvests sunlight and regulates the flow of absorbed energy to provide the photochemical reaction centres with a constant energy throughput. At least two light-driven mechanisms of excited energy quenching in phycobilisomes have been identified: the dominant mechanism in many strains of cyanobacteria depends on the orange carotenoid protein (OCP), while the second mechanism is intrinsically available to a phycobilisome and is possibly activated faster than the former. Recent single molecule spectroscopy studies have shown that far-red (FR) emission states are related to the OCP-dependent mechanism and it was proposed that the second mechanism may involve similar states. In this study, we examined the dynamics of simultaneously measured emission spectra and intensities from a large set of individual phycobilisome complexes from Synechocystis PCC 6803. Our results suggest a direct relationship between FR spectral states and thermal energy dissipating states and can be explained by a single phycobilin pigment in the phycobilisome core acting as the site of both quenching and FR emission likely due to the presence of a charge-transfer state. Our experimental method provides a means to accurately resolve the fluorescence lifetimes and spectra of the FR states, which enabled us to quantify a kinetic model that reproduces most of the experimentally determined properties of the FR states.