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Bioenergetic Generation of Electricity


Bioenergetic Mechanisms of Electric Energy Generation by the Photosynthetic Bacterial Pigment-Protein Complexes

Tech Area / Field

  • BIO-OTH/Other/Biotechnology

8 Project completed

Registration date

Completion date

Senior Project Manager
Evstyukhin K N

Leading Institute
Moscow State University / A.N. Belozersky Institute of Physical and Chemical Biology, Russia, Moscow

Supporting institutes

  • NITzPV (Surface Characteristics and Vacuum Study), Russia, Moscow\nVNIIEF, Russia, N. Novgorod reg., Sarov


  • Institute of Structural Biology, France, Grenoble\nPennsylvania State University, USA, PA, University Park\nCNRS / Institut de Biologie Physico-Chimique, France, Paris\nUS Department of Health & Human Services / National Institute of Health / National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, USA, MD, Bethesda\nUniversity College London / Department of Biology, UK, London

Project summary

One of the main recent biochemical and biophysical achievements is the elucidation of the central role of biological membranes in the processes of energy supply for animal, plant and bacterial cells. According to the generally accepted chemiosmotic theory of oxidation and phosphorylation coupling (P.Mitchell - Nobel Prize, 1978), the electric potential difference generation across the biological membranes is an initial form of the stored energy. This theory predicts an existence of a special class of proteins functioning as electrical current generators.

The investigation of the molecular mechanisms of electrical charge transfer by membrane proteins has both fundamental and applied significance. The capability of transfer and accumulation of electrical charges makes it possible to use these enzyme complexes in biotechnology (photoinduced ATP formation for the protein thinthesis in the cell-free systems, testing of herbicide and medical preparations effects and also as the computer memory elements of biosensors).

The project is aimed to investigate the functioning molecular mechanisms of some electric current generating proteins. As a research materials we intend to use bacteriorhodopsin, the light-driven proton pump from Halobacteria, which enables a unique nonchlorophyll type of photothinthesis, and bacterial photosynthetic reaction center complexes for which X-ray atomic structure of crystals was obtained.

A transmembrane electric potential difference generation and intramolecular conformational changes accompany photoinduced charge transfer in these protein complexes. It is planned to investigate the fast kinetics of inpidual charge transfer reactions within proteins studied in order to determine the nature and mechanisms of electric current generation. In this connection, it is expected to make some modification of original electrometrical method developed in IPCB-MSU enabling to register a charge transfer on distance up to 0.05 nm by increasing the time resolution of this technique. It is also planned to modify the methods of flash-spectrometry in order to monitor simultaneously the absorbtion changes in the wide spectral range. It is expected to use high-resolution (0.1 - 0.01 nm) techniques of the Atomic Force (AFM) and Tunnel Microscope (STM) for studying of the photoinduced conformational changes in the protein complexes during their functioning.

In addition, it is planned to investigate the kinetics of the refraction index changes during the bacteriorhodopsin photocycle in the visible region by means of a laser flash-induced phasometry with the resolution limit of 1-10 ns.

As a result of the project, we plan to clarify the functioning molecular mechanisms for the key pigment - protein complexes responsible for the light energy transformation into the electric form in membranes of photosynthetic organisms. The Project realization would enable to switch the efforts of 21 scientists and engineers involved in the nuclear weapon onto conducting a fundamental research in the fields of bioenergetics and photosynthesis.

A possible role of foreign partners

Agreement on collaboration and support of research proposed was received from the following foreign collaborators.

1. Prof. Pierre Joliot, Institute of Physico-Chemical Biology, Paris, France.
2. Dr. Peter Rich, Glynn Research Institute, Bodmin, UK.
3. Prof. Wolfgang Junge, University of Osnabrueck, Osnabrueck, Germany.
4. Dr. Gunther Fritsch, Max-Plank-Institute of Biophysics, Frankfurt, Germany.
5. Prof. Marten Wikstrom, Dept. Medical Chemistry, Helsinki University, Helsinki, Finland.


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