Photosynthesis Research (v.101, #2-3)

Introduction to optical methods in photosynthesis by Eberhard Schlodder (93-104).
Optical spectroscopy is widely used to study structure and function of photosynthetic systems. Due to the large variety of different methods, these studies have contributed a lot to the identification of the cofactors involved in the primary reactions of photosynthesis and to the elucidation of the kinetics of the light-induced energy and electron transfer reactions. Within other aspects of photosynthesis research as e.g. photoinhibition, these techniques play an important role as well. In this brief introduction, I will focus on the basic principles of the different methods and the information obtained by applying these various techniques. In the reviews that follow, under the section “Optical Methods”, these methods are discussed in detail.
Keywords: Steady-state and transient absorbance and fluorescence spectroscopy; Dichroism; Infrared spectroscopy; Resonance Raman; Thermoluminescence

Ultrafast transient absorption spectroscopy: principles and application to photosynthetic systems by Rudi Berera; Rienk van Grondelle; John T. M. Kennis (105-118).
The photophysical and photochemical reactions, after light absorption by a photosynthetic pigment–protein complex, are among the fastest events in biology, taking place on timescales ranging from tens of femtoseconds to a few nanoseconds. The advent of ultrafast laser systems that produce pulses with femtosecond duration opened up a new area of research and enabled investigation of these photophysical and photochemical reactions in real time. Here, we provide a basic description of the ultrafast transient absorption technique, the laser and wavelength-conversion equipment, the transient absorption setup, and the collection of transient absorption data. Recent applications of ultrafast transient absorption spectroscopy on systems with increasing degree of complexity, from biomimetic light-harvesting systems to natural light-harvesting antennas, are presented. In particular, we will discuss, in this educational review, how a molecular understanding of the light-harvesting and photoprotective functions of carotenoids in photosynthesis is accomplished through the application of ultrafast transient absorption spectroscopy.
Keywords: Ultrafast spectroscopy; Photosynthesis; Light-harvesting antennas

We describe here a recently developed fluorescence measurement system that uses a streak camera to detect fluorescence decay in a single photon-counting mode. This system allows for easy measurements of various samples and provides 2D images of fluorescence in the wavelength and time domains. The great advantage of the system is that the data can be handled with ease; furthermore, the data are amenable to detailed analysis. We describe the picosecond kinetics of fluorescence in spinach Photosystem (PS) II particles at 4–77 K as a typical experimental example. Through the global analysis of the data, we have identified a new fluorescence band (F689) in addition to the already established F680, F685, and F695 emission bands. The blue shift of the steady-state fluorescence spectrum upon cooling below 77 K can be interpreted as an increase of the shorter-wavelength fluorescence, especially F689, due to the slowdown of the excitation energy transfer process. The F685 and F695 bands seem to be thermally equilibrated at 77 K but not at 4 K. The simple and efficient photon accumulation feature of the system allows us to measure fluorescence from leaves, solutions, single colonies, and even single cells. The 2D fluorescence images obtained by this system are presented for isolated spinach PS II particles, intact leaves of Arabidopsis thaliana, the PS I super-complex of a marine centric diatom, Chaetoceros gracilis, isolated membranes of a purple photosynthetic bacterium, Acidiphilium rubrum, which contains Zn-BChl a, and a coral that contains a green fluorescent protein and an algal endosymbiont, Zooxanthella.
Keywords: Streak camera; Photosystem II; Excitation energy transfer; Time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy; Chlorophyll fluorescence; Global analysis; Temperature dependency

Linear dichroism and circular dichroism in photosynthesis research by Győző Garab; Herbert van Amerongen (135-146).
The efficiency of photosynthetic light energy conversion depends largely on the molecular architecture of the photosynthetic membranes. Linear- and circular-dichroism (LD and CD) studies have contributed significantly to our knowledge of the molecular organization of pigment systems at different levels of complexity, in pigment–protein complexes, supercomplexes, and their macroassemblies, as well as in entire membranes and membrane systems. Many examples show that LD and CD data are in good agreement with structural data; hence, these spectroscopic tools serve as the basis for linking the structure of photosynthetic pigment–protein complexes to steady-state and time-resolved spectroscopy. They are also indispensable for identifying conformations and interactions in native environments, and for monitoring reorganizations during photosynthetic functions, and are important in characterizing reconstituted and artificially constructed systems. This educational review explains, in simple terms, the basic physical principles, and theory and practice of LD and CD spectroscopies and of some related quantities in the areas of differential polarization spectroscopy and microscopy.
Keywords: Alignment technique; Anisotropy; Chlorophyll; Circular dichroism; Exciton; Laser scanning microscopy; Linear dichroism; Pigment–protein complex; Photosynthetic membrane; Protein secondary structure; Psi-type aggregate; Transition dipole moment

Resonance Raman spectroscopy by Bruno Robert (147-155).
Resonance Raman spectroscopy may yield precise information on the conformation of, and on the interactions assumed by, the chromophores involved in the first steps of the photosynthetic process, whether isolated in solvents, embedded in soluble or membrane proteins, or, as shown recently, in vivo. By making use of this technique, it is possible, for instance, to relate the electronic properties of these molecules to their structure and/or the physical properties of their environment, or to determine subtle changes of their conformation associated with regulatory processes. After a short introduction to the physical principles that govern resonance Raman spectroscopy, the information content of resonance Raman spectra of chlorophyll and carotenoid molecules is described in this review, together with the experiments which helped in determining which structural parameter each Raman band is sensitive to. A selection of applications of this technique is then presented, in order to give a fair and precise idea of which type of information can be obtained from its use in the field of photosynthesis.
Keywords: Photosynthesis; Vibrational spectroscopy; LHCII; Light-harvesting protein; Carotenoid; Chlorophyll; Bacteriochlorophyll

Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy by Catherine Berthomieu; Rainer Hienerwadel (157-170).
Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy probes the vibrational properties of amino acids and cofactors, which are sensitive to minute structural changes. The lack of specificity of this technique, on the one hand, permits us to probe directly the vibrational properties of almost all the cofactors, amino acid side chains, and of water molecules. On the other hand, we can use reaction-induced FTIR difference spectroscopy to select vibrations corresponding to single chemical groups involved in a specific reaction. Various strategies are used to identify the IR signatures of each residue of interest in the resulting reaction-induced FTIR difference spectra. (Specific) Isotope labeling, site-directed mutagenesis, hydrogen/deuterium exchange are often used to identify the chemical groups. Studies on model compounds and the increasing use of theoretical chemistry for normal modes calculations allow us to interpret the IR frequencies in terms of specific structural characteristics of the chemical group or molecule of interest. This review presents basics of FTIR spectroscopy technique and provides specific important structural and functional information obtained from the analysis of the data from the photosystems, using this method.
Keywords: Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy; Isotope-edited infrared spectroscopy; Metal–ligands; Water molecules

The primary reactions of purple bacterial photosynthesis take place within two well characterized pigment–protein complexes, the core Reaction Center–Light Harvesting 1 (RC–LH1) complex and the more peripheral Light Harvesting 2 (LH2) complex. These antenna complexes serve to absorb incident solar radiation and to transfer it to the reaction-centers, where it is used to ‘power’ the photosynthetic redox reaction. This review provides an overview of how the character of the electronically excited states of these pigment–protein complexes are determined by quantum mechanics and how the respective spectral signatures can be observed by single-molecule spectroscopy.
Keywords: Single-molecule spectroscopy; Purple bacteria; Light-harvesting complexes

Fluorescence lifetimes: fundamentals and interpretations by Ulai Noomnarm; Robert M. Clegg (181-194).
Fluorescence measurements have been an established mainstay of photosynthesis experiments for many decades. Because in the photosynthesis literature the basics of excited states and their fates are not usually described, we have presented here an easily understandable text for biology students in the style of a chapter in a text book. In this review we give an educational overview of fundamental physical principles of fluorescence, with emphasis on the temporal response of emission. Escape from the excited state of a molecule is a dynamic event, and the fluorescence emission is in direct kinetic competition with several other pathways of de-excitation. It is essentially through a kinetic competition between all the pathways of de-excitation that we gain information about the fluorescent sample on the molecular scale. A simple probability allegory is presented that illustrates the basic ideas that are important for understanding and interpreting most fluorescence experiments. We also briefly point out challenges that confront the experimenter when interpreting time-resolved fluorescence responses.
Keywords: Fluorescence lifetime; Quantum yield; Radiative transition; Non-radiative transitions; Perrin–Jablonski diagram; Excited state; Pathways of de-excitation; Lifetime measurements; Exponential decay; Fundamental fluorescence response

Thermoluminescence: experimental by Jean-Marc Ducruet; Imre Vass (195-204).
Thermoluminesence measurements are useful for the study of Photosystem II electron transport in intact leaves, in algal and cyanobacterial cells, as well as in isolated membrane complexes. Here an overview of the experimental approaches is provided. In the present review, instruments and the experimental procedures for measuring thermoluminescence emission from photosynthetic systems of various origins are summarized and discussed. Major pitfalls frequently encountered in measurements with isolated membranes, suspensions of intact organisms or solid leaf samples are highlighted. Analytical and numeric methods for the analysis of measured thermoluminescence curves are also discussed.
Keywords: Photosystem II; Instrument; Signal analysis; Thermoluminescence

Thermoluminescence: theory by Fabrice Rappaport; Jérôme Lavergne (205-216).
Thermoluminescence (TL) probes the emission of luminescence associated with the de-trapping of a radical pair as the temperature is increased. This technique has proved useful for characterizing the energetic arrangement of cofactors in photosynthetic reaction centers. In the original TL theory, stemming from solid-state physics, the radical pair recombination was considered to coincide with the light-emitting process. In photosynthetic systems, however, recombination takes place through various routes among which the radiative pathway generally represents a relatively minor leak, and the theoretical framework must be modified accordingly. The radiative route is the one with the largest activation energy and is thus (still) more disfavored at low temperature, so that during the heating process, the TL peak tends to lag behind the decay of the radical pair. A consequence is that the integrated luminescence emission increases with the heating rate. In this article, we examine how the characteristics of the TL emission depend on the redox potentials of the cofactors, showing good agreement between theory and experimental studies on Photosystem (PS) II mutants. We also analyze the effect on (thermo-) luminescence of the connectivity of the light-harvesting pigment antenna, and show that while this should affect significantly luminescence kinetics at room temperature, the effect on TL is expected to be small.
Keywords: Photosynthesis; Electron transfer; Energetic; Luminescence; Photosystem II

Delayed fluorescence in photosynthesis by Vasilij Goltsev; Ivelina Zaharieva; Petko Chernev; Reto J. Strasser (217-232).
Photosynthesis is a very efficient photochemical process. Nevertheless, plants emit some of the absorbed energy as light quanta. This luminescence is emitted, predominantly, by excited chlorophyll a molecules in the light-harvesting antenna, associated with Photosystem II (PS II) reaction centers. The emission that occurs before the utilization of the excitation energy in the primary photochemical reaction is called prompt fluorescence. Light emission can also be observed from repopulated excited chlorophylls as a result of recombination of the charge pairs. In this case, some time-dependent redox reactions occur before the excitation of the chlorophyll. This delays the light emission and provides the name for this phenomenon—delayed fluorescence (DF), or delayed light emission (DLE). The DF intensity is a decreasing polyphasic function of the time after illumination, which reflects the kinetics of electron transport reactions both on the (electron) donor and the (electron) acceptor sides of PS II. Two main experimental approaches are used for DF measurements: (a) recording of the DF decay in the dark after a single turnover flash or after continuous light excitation and (b) recording of the DF intensity during light adaptation of the photosynthesizing samples (induction curves), following a period of darkness. In this paper we review historical data on DF research and recent advances in the understanding of the relation between the delayed fluorescence and specific reactions in PS II. An experimental method for simultaneous recording of the induction transients of prompt and delayed chlorophyll fluorescence and decay curves of DF in the millisecond time domain is discussed.
Keywords: Delayed (chlorophyll) fluorescence; Chlorophyll fluorescence; Photosystem II (PS II); Reaction center; Charge recombination; Electron transport

Photon echo studies of photosynthetic light harvesting by Elizabeth L. Read; Hohjai Lee; Graham R. Fleming (233-243).
The broad linewidths in absorption spectra of photosynthetic complexes obscure information related to their structure and function. Photon echo techniques represent a powerful class of time-resolved electronic spectroscopy that allow researchers to probe the interactions normally hidden under broad linewidths with sufficient time resolution to follow the fastest energy transfer events in light harvesting. Here, we outline the technical approach and applications of two types of photon echo experiments: the photon echo peak shift and two-dimensional (2D) Fourier transform photon echo spectroscopy. We review several extensions of these techniques to photosynthetic complexes. Photon echo peak shift spectroscopy can be used to determine the strength of coupling between a pigment and its surrounding environment including neighboring pigments and to quantify timescales of energy transfer. Two-dimensional spectroscopy yields a frequency-resolved map of absorption and emission processes, allowing coupling interactions and energy transfer pathways to be viewed directly. Furthermore, 2D spectroscopy reveals structural information such as the relative orientations of coupled transitions. Both classes of experiments can be used to probe the quantum mechanical nature of photosynthetic light-harvesting: peak shift experiments allow quantification of correlated energetic fluctuations between pigments, while 2D techniques measure quantum beating directly, both of which indicate the extent of quantum coherence over multiple pigment sites in the protein complex. The mechanistic and structural information obtained by these techniques reveals valuable insights into the design principles of photosynthetic light-harvesting complexes, and a multitude of variations on the methods outlined here.
Keywords: Photon echo; Photon echo peak shift; 2D Fourier transform photon echo spectroscopy; Spectral band broadening; Reaction center; FMO; LH3; Electronic quantum coherence

Spectral hole burning: examples from photosynthesis by Robin Purchase; Silvia Völker (245-266).
The optical spectra of photosynthetic pigment–protein complexes usually show broad absorption bands, often consisting of a number of overlapping, ‘hidden’ bands belonging to different species. Spectral hole burning is an ideal technique to unravel the optical and dynamic properties of such hidden species. Here, the principles of spectral hole burning (HB) and the experimental set-up used in its continuous wave (CW) and time-resolved versions are described. Examples from photosynthesis studied with hole burning, obtained in our laboratory, are then presented. These examples have been classified into three groups according to the parameters that were measured: (1) hole widths as a function of temperature, (2) hole widths as a function of delay time and (3) hole depths as a function of wavelength. Two examples from light-harvesting (LH) 2 complexes of purple bacteria are given within the first group: (a) the determination of energy-transfer times from the chromophores in the B800 ring to the B850 ring, and (b) optical dephasing in the B850 absorption band. One example from photosystem II (PSII) sub-core complexes of higher plants is given within the second group: it shows that the size of the complex determines the amount of spectral diffusion measured. Within the third group, two examples from (green) plants and purple bacteria have been chosen for: (a) the identification of ‘traps’ for energy transfer in PSII sub-core complexes of green plants, and (b) the uncovering of the lowest k = 0 exciton-state distribution within the B850 band of LH2 complexes of purple bacteria. The results prove the potential of spectral hole burning measurements for getting quantitative insight into dynamic processes in photosynthetic systems at low temperature, in particular, when individual bands are hidden within broad absorption bands. Because of its high-resolution wavelength selectivity, HB is a technique that is complementary to ultrafast pump–probe methods. In this review, we have provided an extensive bibliography for the benefit of scientists who plan to make use of this valuable technique in their future research.
Keywords: Hole burning; Energy transfer; Hidden absorption bands; Light-harvesting complex 2: B800, B850; Energy traps; Photosystem II core complexes