Thylakoids are membrane-bound compartments inside chloroplasts and cyanobacteria. They are the site of the light-dependent reactions of photosynthesis. Thylakoids consist of a thylakoid membrane surrounding a thylakoid lumen . Chloroplast thylakoids frequently form stacks of disks referred to as grana (singular: granum). Grana are connected by intergranal/stromal thylakoids, which join granum stacks together as a single functional compartment.
In thylakoid membranes, chlorophyll pigments are found in packets called quantasomes . Each quantasome contains 230 to 250 chlorophyll molecules.
The word Thylakoid comes from the Greek word thylakos or θύλακος, meaning "sac" or "pouch".Thus, thylakoid means "sac-like" or "pouch-like".
Thylakoids are membrane-bound structures embedded in the chloroplast stroma. A stack of thylakoids is called a granum and resembles a stack of coins.
The thylakoid membrane is the site of the light-dependent reactions of photosynthesis with the photosynthetic pigments embedded directly in the membrane. It is an alternating pattern of dark and light bands measuring each 1 nanometre.The thylakoid lipid bilayer shares characteristic features with prokaryotic membranes and the inner chloroplast membrane. For example, acidic lipids can be found in thylakoid membranes, cyanobacteria and other photosynthetic bacteria and are involved in the functional integrity of the photosystems. The thylakoid membranes of higher plants are composed primarily of phospholipids and galactolipids that are asymmetrically arranged along and across the membranes. Thylakoid membranes are richer in galactolipids rather than phospholipids; also they predominantly consist of hexagonal phase II forming monogalacotosyl diglyceride lipid. Despite this unique composition, plant thylakoid membranes have been shown to assume largely lipid-bilayer dynamic organization. Lipids forming the thylakoid membranes, richest in high-fluidity linolenic acid are synthesized in a complex pathway involving exchange of lipid precursors between the endoplasmic reticulum and inner membrane of the plastid envelope and transported from the inner membrane to the thylakoids via vesicles.
The thylakoid lumen is a continuous aqueous phase enclosed by the thylakoid membrane. It plays an important role for photophosphorylation during photosynthesis. During the light-dependent reaction, protons are pumped across the thylakoid membrane into the lumen making it acidic down to pH 4.
In higher plants thylakoids are organized into a granum-stroma membrane assembly. A granum (plural grana) is a stack of thylakoid discs. Chloroplasts can have from 10 to 100 grana. Grana are connected by stroma thylakoids, also called intergranal thylakoids or lamellae. Grana thylakoids and stroma thylakoids can be distinguished by their different protein composition. Grana contribute to chloroplasts' large surface area to volume ratio. A recent electron tomography study of the thylakoid membranes has shown that the stroma lamellae are organized in wide sheets perpendicular to the grana stack axis and form multiple right-handed helical surfaces at the granal interface.Left-handed helical surfaces consolidate between the right-handed helices and sheets. This complex network of alternating helical membrane surfaces of different radii and pitch was shown to minimize the surface and bending energies of the membranes. This new model, the most extensive one generated to date, revealed that features from two, seemingly contradictory, older models coexist in the structure. Notably, similar arrangements of helical elements of alternating handedness, often referred to as “parking garage” structures, were proposed to be present in the endoplasmic reticulum and in ultradense nuclear matter. This structural organization may constitute a fundamental geometry for connecting between densely packed layers or sheets.
Chloroplasts develop from proplastids when seedlings emerge from the ground. Thylakoid formation requires light. In the plant embryo and in the absence of light, proplastids develop into etioplasts that contain semicrystalline membrane structures called prolamellar bodies. When exposed to light, these prolamellar bodies develop into thylakoids. This does not happen in seedlings grown in the dark, which undergo etiolation. An underexposure to light can cause the thylakoids to fail. This causes the chloroplasts to fail resulting to the death of the plant.
Thylakoid formation requires the action of vesicle-inducing protein in plastids 1 (VIPP1). Plants cannot survive without this protein, and reduced VIPP1 levels lead to slower growth and paler plants with reduced ability to photosynthesize. VIPP1 appears to be required for basic thylakoid membrane formation, but not for the assembly of protein complexes of the thylakoid membrane.It is conserved in all organisms containing thylakoids, including cyanobacteria, green algae, such as Chlamydomonas, and higher plants, such as Arabidopsis thaliana .
Thylakoids can be purified from plant cells using a combination of differential and gradient centrifugation.Disruption of isolated thylakoids, for example by mechanical shearing, releases the lumenal fraction. Peripheral and integral membrane fractions can be extracted from the remaining membrane fraction. Treatment with sodium carbonate (Na2CO3) detaches peripheral membrane proteins, whereas treatment with detergents and organic solvents solubilizes integral membrane proteins.
Thylakoids contain many integral and peripheral membrane proteins, as well as lumenal proteins. Recent proteomics studies of thylakoid fractions have provided further details on the protein composition of the thylakoids.These data have been summarized in several plastid protein databases that are available online.
According to these studies, the thylakoid proteome consists of at least 335 different proteins. Out of these, 89 are in the lumen, 116 are integral membrane proteins, 62 are peripheral proteins on the stroma side, and 68 peripheral proteins on the lumenal side. Additional low-abundance lumenal proteins can be predicted through computational methods.Of the thylakoid proteins with known functions, 42% are involved in photosynthesis. The next largest functional groups include proteins involved in protein targeting, processing and folding with 11%, oxidative stress response (9%) and translation (8%).
Thylakoid membranes contain integral membrane proteins which play an important role in light-harvesting and the light-dependent reactions of photosynthesis. There are four major protein complexes in the thylakoid membrane:
Photosystem II is located mostly in the grana thylakoids, whereas photosystem I and ATP synthase are mostly located in the stroma thylakoids and the outer layers of grana. The cytochrome b6f complex is distributed evenly throughout thylakoid membranes. Due to the separate location of the two photosystems in the thylakoid membrane system, mobile electron carriers are required to shuttle electrons between them. These carriers are plastoquinone and plastocyanin. Plastoquinone shuttles electrons from photosystem II to the cytochrome b6f complex, whereas plastocyanin carries electrons from the cytochrome b6f complex to photosystem I.
Together, these proteins make use of light energy to drive electron transport chains that generate a chemiosmotic potential across the thylakoid membrane and NADPH, a product of the terminal redox reaction. The ATP synthase uses the chemiosmotic potential to make ATP during photophosphorylation.
These photosystems are light-driven redox centers, each consisting of an antenna complex that uses chlorophylls and accessory photosynthetic pigments such as carotenoids and phycobiliproteins to harvest light at a variety of wavelengths. Each antenna complex has between 250 and 400 pigment molecules and the energy they absorb is shuttled by resonance energy transfer to a specialized chlorophyll a at the reaction center of each photosystem. When either of the two chlorophyll a molecules at the reaction center absorb energy, an electron is excited and transferred to an electron-acceptor molecule. Photosystem I contains a pair of chlorophyll a molecules, designated P700, at its reaction center that maximally absorbs 700 nm light. Photosystem II contains P680 chlorophyll that absorbs 680 nm light best (note that these wavelengths correspond to deep red – see the visible spectrum). The P is short for pigment and the number is the specific absorption peak in nanometers for the chlorophyll molecules in each reaction center. This is the green pigment present in plants that is not visible from unaided eyes.
The cytochrome b6f complex is part of the thylakoid electron transport chain and couples electron transfer to the pumping of protons into the thylakoid lumen. Energetically, it is situated between the two photosystems and transfers electrons from photosystem II-plastoquinone to plastocyanin-photosystem I.
The thylakoid ATP synthase is a CF1FO-ATP synthase similar to the mitochondrial ATPase. It is integrated into the thylakoid membrane with the CF1-part sticking into the stroma. Thus, ATP synthesis occurs on the stromal side of the thylakoids where the ATP is needed for the light-independent reactions of photosynthesis.
The electron transport protein plastocyanin is present in the lumen and shuttles electrons from the cytochrome b6f protein complex to photosystem I. While plastoquinones are lipid-soluble and therefore move within the thylakoid membrane, plastocyanin moves through the thylakoid lumen.
The lumen of the thylakoids is also the site of water oxidation by the oxygen evolving complex associated with the lumenal side of photosystem II.
Lumenal proteins can be predicted computationally based on their targeting signals. In Arabidopsis, out of the predicted lumenal proteins possessing the Tat signal, the largest groups with known functions are 19% involved in protein processing (proteolysis and folding), 18% in photosynthesis, 11% in metabolism, and 7% redox carriers and defense.
Chloroplasts have their own genome, which encodes a number of thylakoid proteins. However, during the course of plastid evolution from their cyanobacterial endosymbiotic ancestors, extensive gene transfer from the chloroplast genome to the cell nucleus took place. This results in the four major thylakoid protein complexes being encoded in part by the chloroplast genome and in part by the nuclear genome. Plants have developed several mechanisms to co-regulate the expression of the different subunits encoded in the two different organelles to assure the proper stoichiometry and assembly of these protein complexes. For example, transcription of nuclear genes encoding parts of the photosynthetic apparatus is regulated by light. Biogenesis, stability and turnover of thylakoid protein complexes are regulated by phosphorylation via redox-sensitive kinases in the thylakoid membranes.The translation rate of chloroplast-encoded proteins is controlled by the presence or absence of assembly partners (control by epistasy of synthesis). This mechanism involves negative feedback through binding of excess protein to the 5' untranslated region of the chloroplast mRNA. Chloroplasts also need to balance the ratios of photosystem I and II for the electron transfer chain. The redox state of the electron carrier plastoquinone in the thylakoid membrane directly affects the transcription of chloroplast genes encoding proteins of the reaction centers of the photosystems, thus counteracting imbalances in the electron transfer chain.
Thylakoid proteins are targeted to their destination via signal peptides and prokaryotic-type secretory pathways inside the chloroplast. Most thylakoid proteins encoded by a plant's nuclear genome need two targeting signals for proper localization: An N-terminal chloroplast targeting peptide (shown in yellow in the figure), followed by a thylakoid targeting peptide (shown in blue). Proteins are imported through the translocon of the outer and inner membrane (Toc and Tic) complexes. After entering the chloroplast, the first targeting peptide is cleaved off by a protease processing imported proteins. This unmasks the second targeting signal and the protein is exported from the stroma into the thylakoid in a second targeting step. This second step requires the action of protein translocation components of the thylakoids and is energy-dependent. Proteins are inserted into the membrane via the SRP-dependent pathway (1), the Tat-dependent pathway (2), or spontaneously via their transmembrane domains (not shown in the figure). Lumenal proteins are exported across the thylakoid membrane into the lumen by either the Tat-dependent pathway (2) or the Sec-dependent pathway (3) and released by cleavage from the thylakoid targeting signal. The different pathways utilize different signals and energy sources. The Sec (secretory) pathway requires ATP as an energy source and consists of SecA, which binds to the imported protein and a Sec membrane complex to shuttle the protein across. Proteins with a twin arginine motif in their thylakoid signal peptide are shuttled through the Tat (twin arginine translocation) pathway, which requires a membrane-bound Tat complex and the pH gradient as an energy source. Some other proteins are inserted into the membrane via the SRP (signal recognition particle) pathway. The chloroplast SRP can interact with its target proteins either post-translationally or co-translationally, thus transporting imported proteins as well as those that are translated inside the chloroplast. The SRP pathway requires GTP and the pH gradient as energy sources. Some transmembrane proteins may also spontaneously insert into the membrane from the stromal side without energy requirement.
The thylakoids are the site of the light-dependent reactions of photosynthesis. These include light-driven water oxidation and oxygen evolution, the pumping of protons across the thylakoid membranes coupled with the electron transport chain of the photosystems and cytochrome complex, and ATP synthesis by the ATP synthase utilizing the generated proton gradient.
The first step in photosynthesis is the light-driven reduction (splitting) of water to provide the electrons for the photosynthetic electron transport chains as well as protons for the establishment of a proton gradient. The water-splitting reaction occurs on the lumenal side of the thylakoid membrane and is driven by the light energy captured by the photosystems. This oxidation of water conveniently produces the waste product O2 that is vital for cellular respiration. The molecular oxygen formed by the reaction is released into the atmosphere.
Two different variations of electron transport are used during photosynthesis:
The noncyclic variety involves the participation of both photosystems, while the cyclic electron flow is dependent on only photosystem I.
A major function of the thylakoid membrane and its integral photosystems is the establishment of chemiosmotic potential. The carriers in the electron transport chain use some of the electron's energy to actively transport protons from the stroma to the lumen. During photosynthesis, the lumen becomes acidic, as low as pH 4, compared to pH 8 in the stroma.This represents a 10,000 fold concentration gradient for protons across the thylakoid membrane.
The protons in the lumen come from three primary sources.
The proton gradient is also caused by the consumption of protons in the stroma to make NADPH from NADP+ at the NADP reductase.
The molecular mechanism of ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) generation in chloroplasts is similar to that in mitochondria and takes the required energy from the proton motive force (PMF).[ citation needed ] However, chloroplasts rely more on the chemical potential of the PMF to generate the potential energy required for ATP synthesis. The PMF is the sum of a proton chemical potential (given by the proton concentration gradient) and a transmembrane electrical potential (given by charge separation across the membrane). Compared to the inner membranes of mitochondria, which have a significantly higher membrane potential due to charge separation, thylakoid membranes lack a charge gradient.[ citation needed ] To compensate for this, the 10,000 fold proton concentration gradient across the thylakoid membrane is much higher compared to a 10 fold gradient across the inner membrane of mitochondria. The resulting chemiosmotic potential between the lumen and stroma is high enough to drive ATP synthesis using the ATP synthase. As the protons travel back down the gradient through channels in ATP synthase, ADP + Pi are combined into ATP. In this manner, the light-dependent reactions are coupled to the synthesis of ATP via the proton gradient.[ citation needed ]
Cyanobacteria are photosynthetic prokaryotes with highly differentiated membrane systems. Cyanobacteria have an internal system of thylakoid membranes where the fully functional electron transfer chains of photosynthesis and respiration reside. The presence of different membrane systems lends these cells a unique complexity among bacteria. Cyanobacteria must be able to reorganize the membranes, synthesize new membrane lipids, and properly target proteins to the correct membrane system. The outer membrane, plasma membrane, and thylakoid membranes each have specialized roles in the cyanobacterial cell. Understanding the organization, functionality, protein composition, and dynamics of the membrane systems remains a great challenge in cyanobacterial cell biology.
In contrast to the thylakoid network of higher plants, which is differentiated into grana and stroma lamellae, the thylakoids in cyanobacteria are organized into multiple concentric shells that split and fuse to parallel layers forming a highly connected network. This results in a continuous network that encloses a single lumen (as in higher‐plant chloroplasts) and allows water‐soluble and lipid‐soluble molecules to diffuse through the entire membrane network. Moreover, perforations are often observed within the parallel thylakoid sheets. These gaps in the membrane allow for the traffic of particles of different sizes throughout the cell, including ribosomes, glycogen granules, and lipid bodies.The relatively large distance between the thylakoids provides space for the external light-harvesting antennae, the phycobilisomes. This macrostructure, as in the case of higher plants, shows some flexibility during changes in the physicochemical environment.
A chloroplast is a type of membrane-bound organelle known as a plastid that conducts photosynthesis mostly in plant and algal cells. The photosynthetic pigment chlorophyll captures the energy from sunlight, converts it, and stores it in the energy-storage molecules ATP and NADPH while freeing oxygen from water in the cells. The ATP and NADPH is then used to make organic molecules from carbon dioxide in a process known as the Calvin cycle. Chloroplasts carry out a number of other functions, including fatty acid synthesis, much amino acid synthesis, and the immune response in plants. The number of chloroplasts per cell varies from one, in unicellular algae, up to 100 in plants like Arabidopsis and wheat.
Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy into chemical energy that, through cellular respiration, can later be released to fuel the organism's activities. Some of this chemical energy is stored in carbohydrate molecules, such as sugars and starches, which are synthesized from carbon dioxide and water – hence the name photosynthesis, from the Greek phōs, "light", and synthesis, "putting together". Most plants, algae, and cyanobacteria perform photosynthesis; such organisms are called photoautotrophs. Photosynthesis is largely responsible for producing and maintaining the oxygen content of the Earth's atmosphere, and supplies most of the energy necessary for life on Earth.
A proton pump is an integral membrane protein pump that builds up a proton gradient across a biological membrane. Proton pumps catalyze the following reaction:
Chloroplasts contain several important membranes, vital for their function. Like mitochondria, chloroplasts have a double-membrane envelope, called the chloroplast envelope, but unlike mitochondria, chloroplasts also have internal membrane structures called thylakoids. Furthermore, one or two additional membranes may enclose chloroplasts in organisms that underwent secondary endosymbiosis, such as the euglenids and chlorarachniophytes.
Chemiosmosis is the movement of ions across a semipermeable membrane bound structure, down their electrochemical gradient. An important example is the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) by the movement of hydrogen ions (H+) across a membrane during cellular respiration or photosynthesis.
Plastoquinone (PQ) is an isoprenoid quinone molecule involved in the electron transport chain in the light-dependent reactions of photosynthesis. The most common form of plastoquinone, known as PQ-A or PQ-9, is a 2,3-dimethyl-1,4-benzoquinone molecule with a side chain of nine isoprenyl units. There are other forms of plastoquinone, such as ones with shorter side chains like PQ-3 as well as analogs such as PQ-B, PQ-C, and PQ-D, which differ in their side chains. The benzoquinone and isoprenyl units are both nonpolar, anchoring the molecule within the inner section of a lipid bilayer, where the hydrophobic tails are usually found.
Photosystems are functional and structural units of protein complexes involved in photosynthesis. Together they carry out the primary photochemistry of photosynthesis: the absorption of light and the transfer of energy and electrons. Photosystems are found in the thylakoid membranes of plants, algae, and cyanobacteria. These membranes are located inside the chloroplasts of plants and algae, and in the cytoplasmic membrane of photosynthetic bacteria. There are two kinds of photosystems: PSI and PSII.
Photosystem I is one of two photosystems in the photosynthetic light reactions of algae, plants, and cyanobacteria. Photosystem I is an integral membrane protein complex that uses light energy to catalyze the transfer of electrons across the thylakoid membrane from plastocyanin to ferredoxin. Ultimately, the electrons that are transferred by Photosystem I are used to produce the moderate-energy hydrogen carrier NADPH. The photon energy absorbed by Photosystem I also produces a proton-motive force that is used to generate ATP. PSI is composed of more than 110 cofactors, significantly more than Photosystem II.
In the process of photosynthesis, the phosphorylation of ADP to form ATP using the energy of sunlight is called photophosphorylation. Cyclic photophosphorylation occurs in both aerobic and anaerobic conditions, driven by the main primary source of energy available to living organisms, which is sunlight. All organisms produce a phosphate compound, ATP, which is the universal energy currency of life. In photophosphorylation, light energy is used to pump protons across a biological membrane, mediated by flow of electrons through an electron transport chain. This stores energy in a proton gradient. As the protons flow back through an enzyme called ATP synthase, ATP is generated from ADP and inorganic phosphate. ATP is essential in the Calvin cycle to assist in the synthesis of carbohydrates from carbon dioxide and NADPH.
The cytochrome b6f complex is an enzyme found in the thylakoid membrane in chloroplasts of plants, cyanobacteria, and green algae, that catalyzes the transfer of electrons from plastoquinol to plastocyanin. The reaction is analogous to the reaction catalyzed by cytochrome bc1 of the mitochondrial electron transport chain. During photosynthesis, the cytochrome b6f complex is one step along the chain that transfers electrons from Photosystem II to Photosystem I, and at the same time pumps protons into the thylakoid space, contributing to the generation of an electrochemical (energy) gradient that is later used to synthesize ATP from ADP.
An electrochemical gradient is a gradient of electrochemical potential, usually for an ion that can move across a membrane. The gradient consists of two parts, the chemical gradient, or difference in solute concentration across a membrane, and the electrical gradient, or difference in charge across a membrane. When there are unequal concentrations of an ion across a permeable membrane, the ion will move across the membrane from the area of higher concentration to the area of lower concentration through simple diffusion. Ions also carry an electric charge that forms an electric potential across a membrane. If there is an unequal distribution of charges across the membrane, then the difference in electric potential generates a force that drives ion diffusion until the charges are balanced on both sides of the membrane.
The light-harvesting complex is an array of protein and chlorophyll molecules embedded in the thylakoid membrane of plants and cyanobacteria, which transfer light energy to one chlorophyll a molecule at the reaction center of a photosystem.
A photosynthetic reaction center is a complex of several proteins, pigments and other co-factors that together execute the primary energy conversion reactions of photosynthesis. Molecular excitations, either originating directly from sunlight or transferred as excitation energy via light-harvesting antenna systems, give rise to electron transfer reactions along the path of a series of protein-bound co-factors. These co-factors are light-absorbing molecules (also named chromophores or pigments) such as chlorophyll and pheophytin, as well as quinones. The energy of the photon is used to excite an electron of a pigment. The free energy created is then used, via a chain of nearby electron acceptors, for a transfer of hydrogen atoms (as protons and electrons) from H2O or hydrogen sulfide towards carbon dioxide, eventually producing glucose. These electron transfer steps ultimately result in the conversion of the energy of photons to chemical energy.
Photoinhibition is light-induced reduction in the photosynthetic capacity of a plant, alga, or cyanobacterium. Photosystem II (PSII) is more sensitive to light than the rest of the photosynthetic machinery, and most researchers define the term as light-induced damage to PSII. In living organisms, photoinhibited PSII centres are continuously repaired via degradation and synthesis of the D1 protein of the photosynthetic reaction center of PSII. Photoinhibition is also used in a wider sense, as dynamic photoinhibition, to describe all reactions that decrease the efficiency of photosynthesis when plants are exposed to light.
Oxygenevolution is the process of generating molecular oxygen (O2) by a chemical reaction, usually from water. Oxygen evolution from water is effected by oxygenic photosynthesis, electrolysis of water, and thermal decomposition of various oxides. The biological process supports aerobic life. When relatively pure oxygen is required industrially, it is isolated by distillation of liquified air.
Dioxygen plays an important role in the energy metabolism of living organisms. Free oxygen is produced in the biosphere through photolysis of water during photosynthesis in cyanobacteria, green algae, and plants. During oxidative phosphorylation in cellular respiration, oxygen is reduced to water, thus closing the biological water-oxygen redox cycle.
In photosynthesis, the light-dependent reactions take place on the thylakoid membranes. The inside of the thylakoid membrane is called the lumen, and outside the thylakoid membrane is the stroma, where the light-independent reactions take place. The thylakoid membrane contains some integral membrane protein complexes that catalyze the light reactions. There are four major protein complexes in the thylakoid membrane: Photosystem II (PSII), cytochrome b6f complex, Photosystem I (PSI), and ATP synthase. These four complexes work together to ultimately produce ATP and NADPH.
Plastoglobulins is a family of proteins prominent found in lipid globules in plastids of flowering plants. It shows sequence similarities to the PAP/fibrillin family. PGL and similar proteins can be found in most algae, cyanobacteria and plants, but no other life forms; it suggests a role for PGL in oxygenic photosynthesis.
In molecular biology, the PsbZ (Ycf9) is a protein domain, which is low in molecular weight. It is a transmembrane protein and therefore is located in the thylakoid membrane of chloroplasts in cyanobacteria and plants. More specifically, it is located in Photosystem II (PSII) and in the light-harvesting complex II (LHCII). Ycf9 acts as a structural linker, that stabilises the PSII-LHCII supercomplexes. Moreover, the supercomplex fails to form in PsbZ-deficient mutants, providing further evidence to suggest Ycf9's role as a structural linker. This may be caused by a marked decrease in two LHCII antenna proteins, CP26 and CP29, found in PsbZ-deficient mutants, which result in structural changes, as well as functional modifications in PSII.
Plastid terminal oxidase or plastoquinol terminal oxidase (PTOX) is an enzyme that resides on the thylakoid membranes of plant and algae chloroplasts and on the membranes of cyanobacteria. The enzyme was hypothesized to exist as a photosynthetic oxidase in 1982 and was verified by sequence similarity to the mitochondrial alternative oxidase (AOX). The two oxidases evolved from a common ancestral protein in prokaryotes, and they are so functionally and structurally similar that a thylakoid-localized AOX can restore the function of a PTOX knockout.
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