A tribute to Achim Trebst, a friend
I honor here a friend, Achim Trebst, on his 80th birthday on June 9, 2009. I have known his outstanding research, on the biochemistry of photosynthesis, for years. My brief tribute, which includes personal, scientific and a cultural component, is followed by excellent tributes by Volker ter Meulen and Rudolf K. Thauer, by Heinrich Strotmann, and by Walter Oettmeier (this issue).
KeywordsSanskrit verses honoring Achim Trebst Photosystem II reaction center Chemical tools Herbicides Bicarbonate
Looking for academic personal connections with Achim, I am reminded of the fact that he had once worked in the laboratory of the Nobel laureate Otto Warburg, and I had worked with Robert Emerson who had obtained his PhD in Warburg’s laboratory. This connection may look tenuous to most, but I feel a special linkage with Achim through it.
Achim is known for his outstanding contributions, with his many coworkers (see e.g., Volker ter Meulen and Rudolf K. Thauer, Heinrich Strotmann, and Walter Oettmeier, this issue), in many areas of biochemistry of photosynthesis. These include his pioneering work on the functional ‘autonomy’ of the chloroplast system, on the mechanistic understanding of the electron flow by the use of DBMIB (2,5-dibromo-3-methyl-6-isopropyl-p-benzoquinone; see Trebst et al. 1970), on the vectorial electron flow that had direct bearing on the chemiosmotic theory given by the Nobel laureate Peter Mitchell; on the relationship between mitochondrial cytochrome b/c1 and the chloroplast cytochrome b6/f complex, and on the protective function of tocopherols. I refrain from discussing these areas further because others more competent than I are qualified to talk about them.
Achim’s major contribution to the photosynthetic community has been that he really provided them the chemical tools for the functional and structural localization of carriers and energy conservation sites. Among his many early publications, which had profound influence on my thinking and on my own research, I mention some of them here (see Trebst 1974, 1980, 1986, 1987; and Trebst and Draber 1986). These were concerned with the action of externally added chemicals, including various herbicides. Achim’s original research was responsible for our ability to do ‘biochemical surgery’ of the path of electron transport leading us to suggest that a major binding site of bicarbonate is at the QA − QB side of Photosystem II, close to where herbicides bind (Khanna et al. 1977, 1981; also see a review by Van Rensen et al. 1999).
Achim was among the first to discuss the idea of similarity of the reaction centers of Photosystem II and that of the purple photosynthetic bacteria (Trebst 1986, 1987). This gave impetus to several laboratories, including that of Tony Crofts and my own, for the homology modeling of Photosystem II (Crofts et al. 1987; Bowyer et al. 1990; Xiong et al. 1996, 1998), using results from the exciting data of the Nobel laureates Hartmut Michel, Johann Deisenhofer, Robert Huber and their coworkers on the reaction center of the purple bacteria (see e.g., Deisenhofer et al. 1984, 1985).
In the tradition of the Indian culture, I end this tribute, to honor and congratulate Achim, with two additional Sanskrit verses, composed by Rajeshwari Pandharipande, both meant for Achim.
I am highly thankful to Hans Henrich Hock for the 1st Sanskrit verse (Fig. 1) and to Rajeshwari Pandharipande for the 2nd (Fig. 3) and the 3rd (Fig. 4) Sanskrit verses. I also thank Rolf Thauer for Fig. 5, and Tony Crofts for reading and approving this Tribute for publication in Photosynthesis Research.
- Björn LO, Govindjee (2009) The evolution of photosynthesis and chloroplasts. Dedicated to Achim Trebst at his 80th birthday on June 9, 2009. Curr Sci 96:1466–1474Google Scholar
- Bowyer J, Hilton M, Whitelegge J, Jewess P, Camilleri P, Crofts A, Robinson H (1990) Molecular modelling studies on the binding of phenylurea inhibitors to the D1 protein of Photosystem II. Z Naturforsch 45c:379–387Google Scholar
- Crofts AR, Robinson HH, Andrews K, Van Doren S, Berry E (1987) Catalytic sites for reduction and oxidation of quinones. In: Papa S, Chance B, Ernster L (eds) Cytochrome systems: molecular biology, bioenergetics. Plenum Publishers, New York, pp 617–624Google Scholar
- Kana R, Prásil O, Komárek O, Papageorgiou GC, Govindjee (2009) Spectral characteristic of fluorescence induction in a model cyanobacterium, Synechococcus sp. (PCC 7942). Dedicated to Achim Trebst at his 80th birthday on June 9, 2009. Biochim Biophys Acta. doi: 10.1016/j.bbabio.2009.04.013 PubMedGoogle Scholar
- Trebst A (1986) The topology of the plastoquinone and herbicide binding peptides of photosystem II—a model. Z Naturforschg 41c:240–245Google Scholar
- Trebst A (1987) The three-dimensional structure of the herbicide binding niches on the reaction center polypeptides of Photosystem II. Z Naturforschg 42c:742–750Google Scholar
- Trebst A, Hart E, Draber W (1970) On a new inhibitor of photosynthetic electron transport. Z Naturforsch 25b:1157–1159Google Scholar