Campus Box 1134
Our research program is primarily concerned with elucidating the mechanism of the energy-storing reactions in photosynthetic organisms, as well as understanding the origin and early evolution of photosynthesis.
The chemical reactions leading to long-term energy storage in photosynthetic systems take place within the photosynthetic unit, a functional system that consists of light-gathering antenna complexes, membrane-bound reaction center complexes and an associated group of proteins that make up an electron transport chain. One of the central goals of our research is to identify the molecular parameters responsible for the fact that essentially every photon absorbed by the system leads to stable products. To this end, we do a variety of kinetic, thermodynamic and structural measurements on antenna complexes, reaction centers, electron transport proteins and isolated pigments, using a number of techniques, including ultrafast laser flash photolysis, advanced mass spectrometry and UV-VIS, fluorescence and electron spin resonance spectroscopies, as well as biochemical and molecular biological analysis.
Much of our work is done as part of the Photosynthetic Antenna Research Center (PARC), (parc.wustl.edu) one of the Department of Energy’s Energy Frontier Research Centers. This center conducts research on natural photosynthetic antennas, as well as biohybrid and bioinspired complexes.
Recent work has identified and characterized a megacomplex in cyanobacteria that includes Photosystem I, Photosystem II and the phycobilisome antenna complex. This giant molecular complex has a mass of over 5 MDa and is fully functional, as assayed by ultrafast spectroscopy.
The appearance of photosynthesis and other metabolic processes such as nitrogen fixation had profound effects on the evolution of advanced life on Earth. Our analysis of whole bacterial genomes has revealed that these metabolic processes have complex evolutionary histories, including substantial horizontal gene transfer. We have also used a combination of genomic, molecular evolution techniques and biochemical analysis to identify and characterize previously unknown enzyme complexes with novel activities.
Related DBBS Links:
Zhang H, Cui W, Gross ML and Blankenship RE (2013) Native Mass Spectrometry of Photosynthetic Pigment-Protein Complexes. FEBS Letters 587: 1012-1020.
Majumder EW, King J and Blankenship RE (2013) Alternative Complex III from phototrophic bacteria and its electron acceptor auracyanin. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1827: 1383-1391.
Blankenship RE and Chen M (2013) Spectral Expansion and Antenna Reduction Can Enhance Photosynthesis for Energy Production. Current Opinion in Chemical Biology 17: 457-461.
Orf GS and Blankenship RE (2013) Chlorosome antenna complexes from green photosynthetic bacteria. Photosynthesis Research 116: 315-331.
Liu H, Zhang H, Niedzwiedzki DM, Prado M, He G, Gross ML and Blankenship RE (2013) Phycobilisomes Supply Excitations to Both Photosystems in a Megacomplex in Cyanobacteria. Science 342: 1104-1107.
King JD, McIntosh CL, Halsey CM, Lada BM, Niedzwiedzki DM, Cooley JW and Blankenship RE (2013) Metalloproteins diversified—The auracyanins are a family of cupredoxins that stretch the spectral and redox limits of blue copper proteins. Biochemistry 52: 8267−8275.
Zhang H, Niedzwiedzki DM, Liu H, Prado M, Jiang J, Gross ML and Blankenship RE (2014) The molecular mechanism of orange carotenoid protein-mediated photoprotection in cyanobacteria. Biochemistry 53: 13-19.
Niedzwiedzki DM, Orf GS, Tank M, Vogl K, Bryant DA and Blankenship RE (2014) Photophysical Properties of the Excited States of Bacteriochlorophyll f in Solvents and in Chlorosomes. Journal of Physical Chemistry B 118: 2295-2305.
He G, Zhang H, King JD and Blankenship RE (2014) Structural Analysis of the Homodimeric Reaction Center Complex from the Photosynthetic Green Sulfur Bacterium Chlorobaculum tepidum. Biochemistry 53: 4924-4930.
Blankenship RE (2014) Molecular Mechanisms of Photosynthesis, 2nd Ed. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK. ISBN 978-1-4051-8975-0
Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology, 2012
Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
Charles F. Kettering Award for Excellence in Photosynthesis, American Society of Plant Biologists, 2008
Graduate Mentoring Award, Arizona State University
Graduate College Distinguished Research Award, Arizona State University
Alumni Achievement Award, Nebraska Wesleyan University
CHEM 481 General Biochemistry I
CHEM 481 Inorganic Biochemistry