Campus Box 1134
Our research program is primarily concerned with elucidating the mechanism of the energy-storing reactions in photosynthetic organisms, as well as understanding the origin and early evolution of photosynthesis.
The chemical reactions leading to long-term energy storage in photosynthetic systems take place within the photosynthetic unit, a functional system that consists of light-gathering antenna complexes, membrane-bound reaction center complexes and an associated group of proteins that make up an electron transport chain. One of the central goals of our research is to identify the molecular parameters responsible for the fact that essentially every photon absorbed by the system leads to stable products. To this end, we do a variety of kinetic, thermodynamic and structural measurements on antenna complexes, reaction centers, electron transport proteins and isolated pigments, using a number of techniques, including ultrafast laser flash photolysis, advanced mass spectrometry and UV-VIS, fluorescence and electron spin resonance spectroscopies, as well as biochemical and molecular biological analysis.
Much of our work is done as part of the Photosynthetic Antenna Research Center (PARC), (parc.wustl.edu) one of the Department of Energy’s Energy Frontier Research Centers. This center conducts research on natural photosynthetic antennas, as well as biohybrid and bioinspired complexes.
Recent work has identified and characterized a megacomplex in cyanobacteria that includes Photosystem I, Photosystem II and the phycobilisome antenna complex. This giant molecular complex has a mass of over 5 MDa and is fully functional, as assayed by ultrafast spectroscopy.
The appearance of photosynthesis and other metabolic processes such as nitrogen fixation had profound effects on the evolution of advanced life on Earth. Our analysis of whole bacterial genomes has revealed that these metabolic processes have complex evolutionary histories, including substantial horizontal gene transfer. We have also used a combination of genomic, molecular evolution techniques and biochemical analysis to identify and characterize previously unknown enzyme complexes with novel activities.
Related DBBS Links:
Blankenship RE (2014) Molecular Mechanisms of Photosynthesis, 2nd Ed. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK. ISBN 978-1-4051-8975-0
Niedzwiedzki DM, Orf GS, Tank M, Vogl K, Bryant DA and Blankenship RE (2014) Photophysical properties of the excited states of bacteriochlorophyll f in solvents and in chlorosomes. Journal of Physical Chemistry B 118: 2295-2305.
Orf GS, Niedzwiedzki DM and Blankenship RE (2014) Intensity dependence of the excited state lifetime and triplet conversion yield in the FMO antenna protein. Journal of Physical Chemistry B 118: 2058-2069.
Zhang H, Niedzwiedzki DM, Liu H, Prado M, Jiang J, Gross ML and Blankenship RE (2014) The molecular mechanism of orange carotenoid protein-mediated photoprotection in cyanobacteria. Biochemistry 53: 13-19.
Niedzwiedzki DM, Liu H, Chen M and Blankenship RE (2014) Excited state properties of chlorophyll f in organic solvents at ambient and cryogenic temperatures. Photosynthesis Research 121: 25-34.
Jiang J, Zhang H, Orf G, Lu Y, Xu W, Harrington LB, Liu H, Lo CS and Blankenship RE (2014) Chlorophyll a/c2-peridinin proteins assemble into trimers in the dinoflagellate Symbiodinium. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1837: 1904-1912.
Zhang Y, Majumder E L-W, Yue H, Blankenship RE, and Gross ML (2014) Analysis of diheme cytochrome c by hydrogen-deuterium exchange mass spectrometry and homology modeling. Biochemistry 53: 5619-5630.
Niedzwiedzki DN, Liu H and Blankenship RE (2014) Excited state properties of 3’-hydroxyechinenone in solvents and in the orange carotenoid protein from Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. Journal of Physical Chemistry B 118: 6141–6149.
He G, Zhang H, King JD and Blankenship RE (2014) Structural analysis of the homodimeric reaction center complex from the photosynthetic green sulfur bacterium Chlorobaculum tepidum. Biochemistry 53: 4924-4930.
Liu H, Zhang H, King JD, Wolf N, Prado M, Gross ML, and Blankenship RE (2014) Structural rearrangements of cyanobacterial orange carotenoid protein upon light activation. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1837: 1955-1963.
Jez JM and Blankenship RE (2014) Lights, X-rays, oxygen! Cell 158: 701-703.
King JD, Harrington L, Lada BM, He G, Cooley JW and Blankenship RE (2014) Site-directed mutagenesis of the highly perturbed copper site of auracyanin D. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics 564: 237-243.
King JD, Liu H, He G, Orf GS and Blankenship RE (2014) Chemical activation of the cyanobacterial orange carotenoid protein. FEBS Letters 588: 4561-4565.
Kihara S, Hartzler D, Orf GS, Blankenship RE and Savikhin S (2015) Triplet energy transfer in the Fenna-Matthews-Olson complex. Journal of Physical Chemistry B 119: 5765-5772.
Shah VB, Henson WR, Chadha TS, Lakin G, Liu H, Blankenship RE and Biswas P (2015) Linker free directed assembly of Photosystem I onto nanostructured TiO2 for biohybrid photo-electrochemical cell. Langmuir 31: 1675–1682.
Ort DR, Merchant SS, Alric J, Barkan A, Blankenship RE, Bock R, Croce R, Hanson MR, Hibberd J, Lindstrom DL, Long SP, Moore TA, Moroney J, Niyogi KK, Parry M, Peralta-Yahya P, Prince R, Redding K, Spalding M, van Wijk K, Vermaas WFJ, von Caemmerer S, Weber W, Yeates T, Yuan J, Zhu X (2015) Redesigning photosynthesis to sustainably meet global food and bioenergy demand. Proc. Nat’l. Acad. Sci. USA In Press.
He G, Niedzwiedzki DM, Orf GS, Zhang H and Blankenship RE (2015) Dynamics of Energy and Electron Transfer in the FMO-Reaction Center Complex from the Phototrophic Green Sulfur Bacterium Chlorobaculum tepidum. Journal of Physical Chemistry B In Press.
Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology, 2012
Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
Charles F. Kettering Award for Excellence in Photosynthesis, American Society of Plant Biologists, 2008
Graduate Mentoring Award, Arizona State University
Graduate College Distinguished Research Award, Arizona State University
Alumni Achievement Award, Nebraska Wesleyan University
CHEM 481 General Biochemistry I
CHEM 481 Inorganic Biochemistry