Since Alexandre Edmond Becquerel first discovered the photovoltaic effect in 1839, humankind has sought to further understand and harness the power of sunlight for its own purposes. In a new research report published in the August 2014 issue of the FASEB Journal, scientists may have uncovered a new method of exploiting the power of sunlight by focusing on a naturally occurring combination of lipids that have been strikingly conserved throughout evolution. This conservation—or persistence over time and across species—suggests that this specific natural combination of lipids is important for ensuring light capture and conversion.
"We confirmed the properties of individual thylakoid galactoglycerolipid (or glycolipid) classes previously reports as HII forming lipids, but brought to light how these properties are subtly orchestrated in the matrix in which proteins are embedded, as contributing components for the elaboration of the architecture of photosynthetic membranes and its dynamics," said Juliette Jouhet, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Laboratoire de Physiologie Cellulaire and Vegetale at the Institut de Recherches en Technologies et Sciences pour le Vivant in Grenoble, France.
To make this discovery, Jouhet and colleagues analyzed biomimetic membranes reconstructed with different mixtures of natural lipids, so as to comprehend the contribution of each one of them in the observed biophysical properties. They then analyzed the membranes by neutron diffraction methods. The cohesion between membranes was analyzed by the evolution of the distance between bilayers upon hydration.
"This report helps fulfill the hope of Jimmy Stewart's character, Tony, in 'You Can't Take it with You,'" said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal. "Just as he once dreamt of harnessing the process by which grass derives energy from the sun, this report helps us do just that by defining the green engines in plants and higher organisms that accomplish the task."
Receive monthly highlights from the FASEB Journal by e-mail. Sign up at http://www.faseb.org/fjupdate.aspx. The FASEB Journal is published by the Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). It is the world's most cited biology journal according to the Institute for Scientific Information and has been recognized by the Special Libraries Association as one of the top 100 most influential biomedical journals of the past century.
FASEB is composed of 27 societies with more than 120,000 members, making it the largest coalition of biomedical research associations in the United States. Our mission is to advance health and welfare by promoting progress and education in biological and biomedical sciences through service to our member societies and collaborative advocacy.
Details: Bruno Demé, Céline Cataye, Maryse A. Block, Eric Maréchal, and Juliette Jouhet
Contribution of galactoglycerolipids to the 3-dimensional architecture of thylakoids
FASEB J. August 2014 28:3373-3383; doi:10.1096/fj.13-247395 ; http://www.fasebj.org/content/28/8/3373.abstract
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