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Molecular mechanism of protecting plants from high intensity sunlight: studying Light Harvesting proteins using a combination of advanced electron microscopy and fluorescence methods

Project Description

Understanding the biophysics of photosynthesis could provide clues to developing the next generation of crops. Light-Harvesting Complex II (LHCII) is the main protein in plants that absorbs solar photons and channels energy to where it is needed. LHCII is estimated to be the most abundant membrane protein on Earth and is essential for efficient photosynthesis, yet, its crucial role in “photoprotection” has an unknown mechanism. This project will use cutting-edge biochemical and biophysical techniques and our world-class microscopy facilities to study how LHCII can switch between different states. Project aims: (1) to determine a high-resolution structure of the LHCII in the “light-harvesting” vs “protected” state, (2) to quantify what triggers photoprotection in LHCII by analyzing “model membranes”, (3) to correlate changes in molecular structure with changes in function towards a definitive mechanism. To do this, LHCII will be biochemically purified and characterized with state-of-the-art fluorescence techniques in parallel with single-particle cryo electron microscopy. You will use LHCII either isolated in detergent suspension or incorporated within nanoscale lipid bilayers to test the effect of lipids. This will provide insight into the biophysical basis of photosynthetic processes crucial for life on Earth but poorly understood.

Funding Notes

White Rose BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership in Mechanistic Biology
4 year fully-funded programme of integrated research and skills training, starting Oct 2020:
• Research Council Stipend
• UK/EU Tuition Fees
• Conference and research funding

At least a 2:1 honours degree or equivalent. We welcome students with backgrounds in biological, chemical or physical sciences, or mathematical backgrounds with an interest in biological questions.

EU candidates require 3 years of UK residency to receive full studentship

Not all projects will be funded; the DTP will appoint a limited number of candidates via a competitive process.

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1. Hancock, AM; Meredith, SA; Connell, SDA; Jeuken, LJC; Adams, PG (2019) Proteoliposomes as energy transferring nanomaterials: enhancing the spectral range of light-harvesting proteins using lipid-linked chromophores. Nanoscale 11, 16284-16292.

2. Adams PG; Vasilev C; Neil Hunter C; Johnson MP (2018) Correlated fluorescence quenching and topographic mapping of Light-Harvesting Complex II within surface-assembled aggregates and lipid bilayers. BBA Bioenergetics 1859, 1075-1085.

3. Kontziampasis, D, Klebl, DP, Iadanza, MG, Scarff, CA, Kopf, F, Sobott, F, Monteiro, CF, Trebbin, M, Muench SP. & White HD. A cryo-EM grid preparation device for time-resolved structural studies. (2019) IUCrJ 6, DOI: 10.1107/S2052252519011345.

4. Agip AA, Blaza JN, Bridges HR, Viscomi C, Rawson S, Muench SP, Hirst J. (2018) Cryo-EM structures of complex I from mouse heart mitochondria in two biochemically defined states. Nat Struct Mol Biol. 7, 548-556.

5. Rawson S, Bisson C, Hurdiss DL, Fazal A, McPhillie MJ, Sedelnikova SE, Baker PJ, Rice DW, Muench SP. (2018) Elucidating the structural basis for differing enzyme inhibitor potency by cryo-EM. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 115, 1795-1800.

How good is research at University of Leeds in Physics?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.00

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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