A Structure-Based Model of Energy Transfer Reveals the Principles of Light Harvesting in Photosystem II Supercomplexes

Photosystem II (PSII) initiates photosynthesis in plants through the absorption of light and subsequent conversion of excitation energy to chemical energy via charge separation. The pigment binding proteins associated with PSII assemble in the grana membrane into PSII supercomplexes and surrounding light harvesting complex II trimers. To understand the high efficiency of light harvesting in PSII requires quantitative insight into energy transfer and charge separation in PSII supercomplexes. We have constructed the first structure-based model of energy transfer in PSII supercomplexes. This model shows that the kinetics of light harvesting cannot be simplified to a single rate limiting step. Instead, substantial contributions arise from both excitation diffusion through the antenna pigments and transfer from the antenna to the reaction center (RC), where charge separation occurs. Because of the lack of a rate-limiting step, fitting kinetic models to fluorescence lifetime data cannot be used to derive mechanistic insight on light harvesting in PSII. This model will clarify the interpretation of chlorophyll fluorescence data from PSII supercomplexes, grana membranes, and leaves.