Cationic penetrating antioxidants switch off Mn cluster of photosystem II in situ

  • Vasily V. PtushenkoEmail author
  • Alexei E. Solovchenko
  • Andrew Y. Bychkov
  • Olga B. Chivkunova
  • Andrey V. Golovin
  • Olga A. Gorelova
  • Tatiana T. Ismagulova
  • Leonid V. Kulik
  • Elena S. Lobakova
  • Alexandr A. Lukyanov
  • Rima I. Samoilova
  • Pavel N. Scherbakov
  • Irina O. Selyakh
  • Larisa R. Semenova
  • Svetlana G. Vasilieva
  • Olga I. Baulina
  • Maxim V. Skulachev
  • Mikhail P. Kirpichnikov
Original article


Mitochondria-targeted antioxidants (also known as ‘Skulachev Ions’ electrophoretically accumulated by mitochondria) exert anti-ageing and ROS-protecting effects well documented in animal and human cells. However, their effects on chloroplast in photosynthetic cells and corresponding mechanisms are scarcely known. For the first time, we describe a dramatic quenching effect of (10-(6-plastoquinonyl)decyl triphenylphosphonium (SkQ1) on chlorophyll fluorescence, apparently mediated by redox interaction of SkQ1 with Mn cluster in Photosystem II (PSII) of chlorophyte microalga Chlorella vulgaris and disabling the oxygen-evolving complex (OEC). Microalgal cells displayed a vigorous uptake of SkQ1 which internal concentration built up to a very high level. Using optical and EPR spectroscopy, as well as electron donors and in silico molecular simulation techniques, we found that SkQ1 molecule can interact with Mn atoms of the OEC in PSII. This stops water splitting giving rise to potent quencher(s), e.g. oxidized reaction centre of PSII. Other components of the photosynthetic apparatus proved to be mostly intact. This effect of the Skulachev ions might help to develop in vivo models of photosynthetic cells with impaired OEC function but essentially intact otherwise. The observed phenomenon suggests that SkQ1 can be applied to study stress-induced damages to OEC in photosynthetic organisms.


Chlorophyll fluorescence quenching Oxygen-evolving complex P680+ accumulation Photosystem II Skulachev ions YZ 



Chlorophyll fluorescence




Electron spin echo


Non-photochemical quenching


Oxygen-evolving complex

P680 and P700

Primary electron donors in photosystems II and I, respectively


Photosystem II


Reactive oxygen species


10-(6-Plastoquinonyl)decyl triphenylphosphonium



The electron microscopy study was carried out at the User Facilities Center of M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University. The authors are grateful to Dr. T.V. Zhigalova for help in chloroplast isolation; to Dr. N.P. Isaev and Dr. I.A. Slepneva for help in experiments; to Dr. M.V. Fedin and Dr. K.L. Ivanov for help with the sample logistics; to Dr. E. Reijerse and Dr. W. Lubitz for providing the opportunity to perform Q-band EPR experiments and helpful discussion; to Dr. G.A. Korshunova for generous donation of SkQ1 and SkQ3; to Dr. S. Matsubara and Dr. C. Schreiber for the possibility of Imaging PAM measurements, to Dr. F. Mamedov and Dr. T.K. Antal for inspiring discussions; to Dr. I.I. Proskuryakov for reading the manuscript and critical remarks, and to Dr. V.P. Skulachev for friendly criticism, encouragement, and invaluable suggestions. Funding by Russian Foundation for Basic Research is gratefully acknowledged (Project 19-04-00509). The publication was prepared with partial support of the « RUDN University Program 5–100 » .

Author contribution

Conception of the study and writing up the manuscript—VVP and AES; algae cultivation and experimental treatments—OIB, OAG, TTI, AAL, ESL, PNS, IOS, LRS, and SGV; synthesis of SkQ1 and SkQ3—MVS; instrumental measurements: fluorimetry—VVP and AES; pigment assay and spectral measurements—VVP, AES, and OBC; photosynthetic oxygen evolution—VVP and AES; chloroplast isolation—OBC; Mn assay—AYB; EPR measurements—LVK, RIS, and VVP; docking simulation—AVG; thermodynamic and kinetic analysis and Fo vs. Fm quenching simulation—VVP; discussion and interpretation of the results—all authors.

Compliance with ethical standards

Competing interests

MVS is CEO of Mitotech LLC; all other authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11120_2019_657_MOESM1_ESM.doc (2.9 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 2929 kb)
11120_2019_657_MOESM2_ESM.doc (66 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOC 65 kb)
11120_2019_657_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (2.5 mb)
Supplementary material 3 (PDF 2513 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vasily V. Ptushenko
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Alexei E. Solovchenko
    • 3
    • 4
  • Andrew Y. Bychkov
    • 5
  • Olga B. Chivkunova
    • 3
  • Andrey V. Golovin
    • 6
    • 7
  • Olga A. Gorelova
    • 3
  • Tatiana T. Ismagulova
    • 3
  • Leonid V. Kulik
    • 8
    • 9
  • Elena S. Lobakova
    • 3
  • Alexandr A. Lukyanov
    • 3
  • Rima I. Samoilova
    • 8
  • Pavel N. Scherbakov
    • 3
  • Irina O. Selyakh
    • 3
  • Larisa R. Semenova
    • 3
  • Svetlana G. Vasilieva
    • 3
  • Olga I. Baulina
    • 3
  • Maxim V. Skulachev
    • 1
    • 10
  • Mikhail P. Kirpichnikov
    • 3
  1. 1.A.N. Belozersky Institute of Physical–Chemical BiologyM.V. Lomonosov Moscow State UniversityMoscowRussia
  2. 2.N.M. Emanuel Institute of Biochemical Physics of RASMoscowRussia
  3. 3.Faculty of BiologyM.V. Lomonosov Moscow State UniversityMoscowRussia
  4. 4.Peoples Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University)MoscowRussia
  5. 5.Faculty of GeologyM.V. Lomonosov Moscow State UniversityMoscowRussia
  6. 6.Faculty of Bioengineering and BioinformaticsM.V. Lomonosov Moscow State UniversityMoscowRussia
  7. 7.Institute of Molecular MedicineSechenov First Moscow State Medical UniversityMoscowRussia
  8. 8.V.V. Voevodsky Institute of Chemical Kinetics and Combustion of SB RASNovosibirskRussia
  9. 9.Novosibirsk State UniversityNovosibirskRussia
  10. 10.Institute of MitoengineeringM.V. Lomonosov Moscow State UniversityMoscowRussia

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