Factors Controlling the Mobility of Photosynthetic Proteins


  • This invited paper is part of the Symposium-in-Print: Photosynthesis.

*Corresponding author email: c.mullineaux@qmul.ac.uk (Conrad W. Mullineaux)


Protein diffusion in and around the photosynthetic membrane must play a crucial role in photosynthetic functions including electron transport, regulation of light-harvesting, and biogenesis, turnover and repair of membrane components. Protein mobility is controlled by a complex web of specific interactions, plus the viscosity of the environment and the extent of macromolecular crowding. I discuss the techniques that can be used to measure protein mobility in photosynthetic membranes. I then summarize what we know about the constraints on protein mobility imposed by macromolecular aggregation and crowding in and around the thylakoid membranes of green plants and cyanobacteria, with particular reference to the fluidity of the thylakoid membrane and the aqueous phases on either side of the membrane (the stroma/cytoplasm and the thylakoid lumen). Current indications are that the stroma/cytoplasm is a relatively fluid environment, whereas protein mobility in the lumen may be extremely restricted. The thylakoid membrane itself has an intermediate fluidity: some protein complexes are virtually immobile, probably due to their incorporation into large, stable macromolecular aggregates. However, there is sufficient free space to allow the long-range diffusion of some complexes. Finally, I discuss some future directions for research in this area.