Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering

, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 156–165 | Cite as

Incorporation of Photosynthetic Reaction Centers in the Membrane of Human Cells: Toward a New Tool for Optical Control of Cell Activity

  • Cristian Pablo Pennisi
  • Poul Erik Jensen
  • Vladimir Zachar
  • Elias Greenbaum
  • Ken Yoshida


The Photosystem I (PSI) reaction center is a photosynthetic membrane complex in which light-induced charge separation is accompanied by the generation of an electric potential. It has been recently proposed as a means to confer light sensitivity to cells possessing voltage-activated ion channels, but the feasibility of heterologous incorporation has not been demonstrated. In this work, methods of delivery and detection of PSI in the membrane of human cells are presented. Purified fractions of PSI were reconstituted in proteoliposomes that were used as vehicles for the membrane incorporation. A fluorescent impermeable dye was entrapped in the vesicles to qualitatively analyze the nature of the vesicle–cell interaction. After incorporation, the localization and orientation of the complexes in the membrane was studied using immuno-fluorescence microscopy. The results showed complexes oriented as in native membranes, which were randomly distributed in clusters over the entire surface of the cell. Additionally, analysis of cell viability showed that the incorporation process does not damage the cell membrane. Taken together, the results of this work suggest that the mammalian cellular membrane is a reasonable environment for the incorporation of PSI complexes, which opens the possibility of using these molecular photovoltaic structures for optical control of cell activity.


Photosystem I Proteoliposomes Immunofluorescence microscopy Heterologous incorporation Adipose stem cells 


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Copyright information

© Biomedical Engineering Society 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cristian Pablo Pennisi
    • 1
  • Poul Erik Jensen
    • 2
  • Vladimir Zachar
    • 3
  • Elias Greenbaum
    • 4
  • Ken Yoshida
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.Center for Sensory-Motor Interaction (SMI), Department of Health Science and TechnologyAalborg UniversityAalborgDenmark
  2. 2.VKR Research Center “Pro-Active Plants”, Molecular Plant Biology Laboratory, Department of Plant Biology and BiotechnologyUniversity of CopenhagenFrederiksberg CDenmark
  3. 3.Laboratory for Stem Cell Research, Department of Health Science and TechnologyAalborg UniversityAalborgDenmark
  4. 4.Chemical Sciences DivisionOak Ridge National LaboratoryOak RidgeUSA
  5. 5.Biomedical Engineering DepartmentIndiana University–Purdue University IndianapolisIndianapolisUSA

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