Encyclopedia of Biophysics

Living Edition
| Editors: Gordon Roberts, Anthony Watts, European Biophysical Societies

Photosynthetic Electron Transport

  • Joseph Kuo-Hsiang TangEmail author
  • Robert E. Blankenship
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-35943-9_20-1



Photosynthetic electron transport describes the process of light-induced electron transport for generating chemical energy and reducing equivalents in phototrophic organisms.


Photosynthesis is the ultimate source of our food and most energy sources on Earth, and photosynthetic organisms use solar energy to drive the synthesis of biomass and biofuels. Photosynthetic electron transport is the first stage of photosynthesis that produces chemically stored energy and uses solar photons to drive electron transport against a thermodynamic gradient. The electron transport pathway and the coupled chemiosmotic gradient generate high energy chemicals, such as ATP and reducing equivalents (Blankenship 2014). Both oxygen-evolving phototrophs, including cyanobacteria, algae and plants, and anoxygenic (non-oxygen-evolving) phototrophic bacteria are also known. In all cases the anoxygenic organisms contain a single photosystem. While...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Baniulis D, Yamashita E, Zhang H, Hasan SS, Cramer WA (2008) Structure-function of the cytochrome b6f complex. Photochem Photobiol 84:1349–1358CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Ben-Shem A, Frolow F, Nelson N (2003) Crystal structure of plant photosystem I. Nature 426:630–635CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blankenship RE (2010) Early evolution of photosynthesis. Plant Physiol 154:434–438CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  4. Blankenship RE (2014) Molecular mechanisms of photosynthesis, 2nd edn. Wiley- Blackwell, Oxford, UKGoogle Scholar
  5. Bond CS, Blankenship RE, Freeman HC, Guss JM, Maher MJ, Selvaraj FM, Wilce MC, Willingham KM (2001) Crystal structure of auracyanin, a “blue” copper protein from the green thermophilic photosynthetic bacterium Chloroflexus aurantiacus. J Mol Biol 306:47–67CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Bryant DA, Costas AM, Maresca JA, Chew AG, Klatt CG, Bateson MM, Tallon LJ, Hostetler J, Nelson WC, Heidelberg JF, Ward DM (2007) Candidatus Chloracidobacterium thermophilum: an aerobic phototrophic Acidobacterium. Science 317:523–526CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Ducluzeau AL, Chenu E, Capowiez L, Baymann F (2008) The Rieske/cytochrome b complex of Heliobacteria. Biochim Biophys Acta 1777:1140–1146CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Frigaard NU, Dahl C (2009) Sulfur metabolism in phototrophic sulfur bacteria. Adv Microb Physiol 54:103–200CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Gao X, Xin Y, Bell PD, Wen J, Blankenship RE (2010) Structural analysis of alternative complex III in the photosynthetic electron transfer chain of Chloroflexus aurantiacus. Biochemistry 49:6670–6679CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  10. Gisriel C, Sarrou I, Ferlez B, Golbeck JH, Redding KE, Fromme R (2017) Structure of a symmetric photosynthetic reaction center-photosystem. Science 357:1021–1025CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Guskov A, Kern J, Gabdulkhakov A, Broser M, Zouni A, Saenger W (2009) Cyanobacterial photosystem II at 2.9-A resolution and the role of quinones, lipids, channels and chloride. Nat Struct Mol Biol 16:334–342CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Heinnickel M, Golbeck JH (2007) Heliobacterial photosynthesis. Photosynth Res 92:35–53CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Hohmann-Marriott MF, Blankenship RE (2011) Evolution of photosynthesis. Annu Rev Plant Biol 62:515–548CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Iwai M, Takizawa K, Tokutsu R, Okamuro A, Takahashi Y, Minagawa J (2010) Isolation of the elusive supercomplex that drives cyclic electron flow in photosynthesis. Nature 464:1210–1213CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Jordan P, Fromme P, Witt HT, Klukas O, Saenger W, Krauss N (2001) Three-dimensional structure of cyanobacterial photosystem I at 2.5 A resolution. Nature 411:909–917CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kramer DM, Schoepp B, Liebl U, Nitschke W (1997) Cyclic electron transfer in Heliobacillus mobilis involving a menaquinol-oxidizing cytochrome bc complex and an RCI-type reaction center. Biochemistry 36:4203–4211CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Kurisu G, Kusunoki M, Katoh E, Yamazaki T, Teshima K, Onda Y, Kimata-Ariga Y, Hase T (2001) Structure of the electron transfer complex between ferredoxin and ferredoxin-NADP(+) reductase. Nat Struct Biol 8:117–121CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Kurisu G, Zhang H, Smith JL, Cramer WA (2003) Structure of the cytochrome b6f complex of oxygenic photosynthesis: tuning the cavity. Science 302:1009–1014CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Lee M, del Rosario MC, Harris HH, Blankenship RE, Guss JM, Freeman HC (2009) The crystal structure of auracyanin A at 1.85 A resolution: the structures and functions of auracyanins A and B, two almost identical “blue” copper proteins, in the photosynthetic bacterium Chloroflexus aurantiacus. J Biol Inorg Chem 14:329–345CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Majumder EL, King JD, Blankenship RE (2013) Alternative complex III from phototrophic bacteria and its electron acceptor auracyanin. Biochim Biophys Acta 1827:1383–1391CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Nelson N, Ben-Shem A (2004) The complex architecture of oxygenic photosynthesis. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol 5:971–982CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Shikanai T (2007) Cyclic electron transport around photosystem I: genetic approaches. Annu Rev Plant Biol 58:199–217CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. van Niel CB (1931) On the morphology and physiology of the purple and green sulfur bacteria. Arch Microbiol 3:1–114Google Scholar
  24. Xue Y, Okvist M, Hansson O, Young S (1998) Crystal structure of spinach plastocyanin at 1.7 A resolution. Protein Sci 7:2099–2105CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  25. Yanyushin MF, del Rosario MC, Brune DC, Blankenship RE (2005) New class of bacterial membrane oxidoreductases. Biochemistry 44:10037–10045CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© European Biophysical Societies' Association (EBSA) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph Kuo-Hsiang Tang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Robert E. Blankenship
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Molecular Science and Center of Applied Structural Discovery, Bio-design InstituteArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Biology and ChemistryWashington University in St. LouisSt. LouisUSA