Gießen Plant Physiology joins Sfb 1078 in Berlin
Sfb 1078 is focused on the role of "Protonation dynamics in protein function" with the idea of combining research on the functional mechanisms of several different proteins to establish the regulatory role of protons in proteins in general. Several Sfb groups work, for example, on Photosystem II, the molecular complex plants use to harness sunlight to dismantle water molecules in photosynthesis to generate oxygen and to fuel the Earth's ecosystem. PSII produces electrons (to fix carbon dioxide) and protons (to generate ATP) - but it is still not clear how, even though Berlin groups have led the world in these studies for many years. Another focus of the Sfb are the phytochrome photoreceptors used by plants and many microorganisms to monitor their light environment. In 1997 the Hughes group, then at the FU Berlin, rather revolutionized the field by discovering the first phytochrome in a prokaryote (Cph1 in the cyanobacterium Synechocystis), opening the door to studies using powerful biophysical methods like vibrational spectroscopy, NMR and X-ray crystallography. Indeed, 10 years later, a collaboration between the Hughes group in Gießen and that of Lars-Oliver Essen in Marburg was successful in solving the crystal structure of the functional Cph1 molecule, the critical first step in understanding how it works. Since then Hughes's collaborations in Leiden (NL), Leipzig and Berlin have made particular progress in developing and exploiting solid-state NMR methods to study not only Cph1 but also plant phytochromes. The involvement with the Berlin Sfb follows from the proton movements that are associated with the physiological signal from photoreceptor being switched on and off by light. This photoswitching makes phytochrome an idea molecule for studying the principles regulating protonation dynamics in proteins in general.
For more details of the work of the Hughes group, see
For details of Sfb 1078 see www.sfb1078.de