The structure and function of the thylakoid membrane

  • David J. Simpson
  • Diter Von Wettstein


Thylakoid membranes are laterally differentiated into appressed and non-appressed regions called grana and stroma lamellae. Pure stroma lamellae isolated from wild type maize and barley leaves contain photosystem I and its light-harvesting antennae, the cytochromeb6/f complex and coupling factor. Maize stroma lamellae contained only 2% of the total photosystem II polypeptides found in whole thylakoids, and most of the small amount of the photosystem II light-harvesting complex (LHCII) was associated with photosystem I. These results were consistent with the low rates of photosystem II electron transport and low levels of the high potential form of cytochromeb-559. Immune blot assays indicated that about half of the low potential form of cytochromeb-559 in stroma lamellae was antigenically distinct from that derived from the high potential form. The amount of LHCII in stroma lamellae could be increased by exposing leaves to bright white light (state 2) prior to the isolation of stromal lamellae. This LHCII caused a 15% increase in photosystem I antenna size and was different from the LHCII found in grana lamellae, since it lacked a 26 kD polypeptide possibly involved in thylakoid appression. These results demonstrate that the migration of LHCII from appressed to non-appressed lamellae as a result of changes in the relative amounts of energy absorbed by the 2 different photosystems, also occurs in vivo.

The reaction centre core of photosystem I was isolated from barley thylakoids and its molecular weight determined to be 650 kD. Attack by various proteases cleaved it into fragments of less than 5 kD, although the complex was still photoactive. However, the kinetics of photo-oxidation of P700 under light-limiting conditions were slower after proteolysis, indicating less efficient energy transfer. In a barley mutant lacking photosystem I, a chlorophylla species absorbing at 689 nm was lacking, accounting for about 30 molecules out of every 500 in wild type thylakoids.

Finally, a mutant completely lacking photosystem II activity,viridis −115, has been examined. It contained only 4% of the photosystem II-containing EFS particles found in wild type thylakoids, and lacked a chlorophylla species absorbing at 683 nm. Immune electron microscopy revealed that the α-subunit of cytochromeb-559 and the 33 kD polypeptide of the oxygen evolving complex were correctly located in appressed thylakoids, in spite of the lack of the major photosystem II core polypeptides. A double mutant, lacking both photosystem II and LHCII was found to contain grana, even though its thylakoids lacked the 2 complexes normally associated with maintenance of membrane appression in vivo.


Chlorophyll-proteins electron microscopy freeze-fracture gel electrophoresis grana membranes photosystem I/II stroma membranes 



extrinsic/intrinsic chloroplast coupling factor




3-(3,4-dichlorophenyl)-1,1′-dimethyl urea


endoplasmic fracture face




light-harvesting complex of PSI/II


protoplasmic fracture face


photosystem I/II






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Copyright information

© Carlsberg Laboratory 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • David J. Simpson
    • 1
  • Diter Von Wettstein
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhysiologyCarlsberg LaboratoryCopenhagen Valby

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