Shogo Matsubara (Research Fellowship for Young Scientists, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science) and Dr. Hitoshi Tamiaki of the Graduate School of Life Sciences, Ritsumeikan University, have developed the world’s first system for concentrating chlorophylls and visualizing the assembly of light-harvesting complexes, also called chlorosomes.
These light-harvesting antennae were previously shown by Tamiaki’s research group to be a collection of specialized chlorophyll molecules arranged in a tubular structure. However, the mechanism underlying their assembly into a tubular structure remained unclear.
Prior efforts to concentrate chlorophyll molecules and construct a chlorosome model were unsuccessful as the tubular chlorosome structure could not be reconstituted directly. Matsubara and Tamiaki believed that the reason for the lack of success was that the correct assembly process was not followed. They therefore set out to create an artificial chlorosome model.
Chlorophores in the chlorosome are formed through sequential biosynthesis of chlorophyll molecules. Matsubara and Tamiaki have developed an artificial system where chlorophyll molecules gradually accumulate, thereby successfully recapitulating the formation of a tubular structure.
This was the world’s first successful attempt at modeling the process of chlorophore assembly in chlorosomes. These research results have broad applications apart from chlorosome formation, including the ability to visualize the assembly of various other poorly understood structures at the molecular level.
The findings were selected for publication in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, appearing as a Spotlight article. The journal is one of the world’s leading authorities on chemistry. First published online on January 9, 2019, the manuscript received high praise from reviewers.
Research Profile: Professor Hitoshi Tamiaki
Journal of the Amercian Chemical Society JACS