Seminar on Design Principles of Plant Photosynthetic Membranes – University of Copenhagen

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Seminar on Design Principles of Plant Photosynthetic Membranes

Assistant Professor Helmut Kirchhoff from Washington State University will talk on 22 September 2014 at 10.00-11.00 on Design Principles of Plant Photosynthetic Membranes.

Helmut KirchhoffAbstract: Billions of years of evolution have shaped photosynthetic machinery to tune its energy converting performance, which allows survival in a dynamic environment. In the last decades, our understanding of molecular design principles has improved significantly and has led to the perception that the photosynthetic nanomachines embedded in thylakoid membranes have in-built switching capabilities that regulate their functionality. However, despite our good knowledge base on the single-molecule level, our understanding of design principles on the mesoscopic structural level (~100 nm to ~1000 nm) is poor. In the talk, I will show that dynamics on the mesoscale like protein density fluctuations (macromolecular crowding), supramolecular switches from disordered to semicrystalline states, and membrane swelling and shrinkage are key features of photosynthetic membranes. It will be demonstrated that structural flexibility on the mesoscopic level was evolved to enable control over photosynthetic electron transport, adaptation, and protein repair. The role of membrane lipids for these processes is often neglected. Recently, we addressed the question how the complex and dynamic lipid environment in thylakoid membranes influence the conformation and function of photosynthetic complexes. First results reveal that thylakoid lipids are not just an inert reaction space for proteins but play an active role for regulation of membrane protein functions via conformational changes.

Helmut Kirchhoff is joining us from Washington State University, Institute of Biological Chemistry where his research focuses on understanding the mechanisms that optimize, protect, and maintain the photosynthetic machinery on the molecular, supramolecular, and whole membrane level. Accomplishment of these aims will lead to insights on how plants survive in a challenging environment and can help to find new strategies to solve our global food and energy problems. His group is working on three main projects areas: Molecular Architecture and Dynamics of Photosynthetic Membranes, Photosynthesis under Stress and New Techniques for Photosynthesis Research.

Date: 22 September 2014 at 10.00-11.00.

Place: Thorvaldsensvej 40, 1871 Frederiksberg C, on the 6th floor in room R645+R646.