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Keywords:

  • coupled electron–proton transfer;
  • electron transfer;
  • photosynthesis;
  • photosystem II;
  • proton transport

Abstract

All higher life forms use oxygen and respiration as their primary energy source. The oxygen comes from water by solar-energy conversion in photosynthetic membranes. In green plants, light absorption in photosystem II (PSII) drives electron-transfer activation of the oxygen-evolving complex (OEC). The mechanism of water oxidation by the OEC has long been a subject of great interest to biologists and chemists. With the availability of new molecular-level protein structures from X-ray crystallography and EXAFS, as well as the accumulated results from numerous experiments and theoretical studies, it is possible to suggest how water may be oxidized at the OEC. An integrated sequence of light-driven reactions that exploit coupled electron–proton transfer (EPT) could be the key to water oxidation. When these reactions are combined with long-range proton transfer (by sequential local proton transfers), it may be possible to view the OEC as an intricate structure that is “wired for protons”.