Directed assembly of defined oligomeric photosynthetic reaction centres through adaptation with programmable extra-membrane coiled-coil interfaces

David J. K. Swainsbury, Robert L. Harniman, Natalie D. di Bartolo, Juntai Liu, William F. M. Harper, Alexander S. Corrie, Michael R. Jones

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A challenge associated with the utilisation of bioenergetic proteins in new, synthetic energy transducing systems is achieving efficient and predictable self-assembly of individual components, both natural and man-made, into a functioning macromolecular system. Despite progress with water-soluble proteins, the challenge of programming self-assembly of integral membrane proteins into non-native macromolecular architectures remains largely unexplored. In this work it is shown that the assembly of dimers, trimers or tetramers of the naturally monomeric purple bacterial reaction centre can be directed by augmentation with an α-helical peptide that self-associates into extra-membrane coiled-coil bundle. Despite this induced oligomerisation the assembled reaction centres displayed normal spectroscopic properties, implying preserved structural and functional integrity. Mixing of two reaction centres modified with mutually complementary α-helical peptides enabled the assembly of heterodimers in vitro, pointing to a generic strategy for assembling hetero-oligomeric complexes from diverse modified or synthetic components. Addition of two coiled-coil peptides per reaction centre monomer was also tolerated despite the challenge presented to the pigment-protein assembly machinery of introducing multiple self-associating sequences. These findings point to a generalised approach where oligomers or longer range assemblies of multiple light harvesting and/or redox proteins can be constructed in a manner that can be genetically-encoded, enabling the construction of new, designed bioenergetic systems in vivo or in vitro.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1829-1839
Number of pages11
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Bioenergetics
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


  • Coiled-coil
  • Directed self-assembly
  • Membrane protein
  • Oligomerisation
  • Photosystem
  • Reaction centre

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