Christine Kirmaier

​Research Professor in Chemistry
PhD, Washington University
MS, University of Washington, Seattle
BA, Grinnell College
research interests:
  • Biophysical and biological chemistry
  • Primary processes of photosynthesis
  • Tetrapyrrole photophysics
  • Ultrafast laser spectroscopy
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contact info:

mailing address:

  • Washington University
  • CB 1134
  • One Brookings Dr.
  • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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Christine Kirmaier's research interests include primary photochemical processes of photosynthesis; photophysical characteristics of tetrapyrrole chromophores; energy and electron transfer in tetrapyrrole arrays; and ultrafast laser spectroscopy.

Kirmaier’s photosynthesis research aims at achieving a molecular level understanding of the primary charge separation process in the bacterial reaction center. This complex has two parallel transmembrane electron transport chains. In the native reaction center, only one cofactor chain (the A side) is active while the other (the B side) is silent. Her work has focused on understanding the near-unity quantum yield of electron transfer down the A side, and how to switch the directionality to achieve instead a high yield of charge separation exclusively using the B branch. This work involves the design of mutants in which one of more amino acid site is altered using molecular biology, followed by studies of the photoinduced events using time resolved optical spectroscopy on the time scales of femtoseconds to seconds. Her interests also include the photopysical properties of tetrrapyrrrole chromophores (porphyrins, chlorins, and bacteriochlorins) as well as energy and electron transfer in tetrapyrrole chromophore arrays. 

Selected Publications

High-Throughput Engineering to Revitalize a Vestigial Electron Transfer Pathway in Bacterial Photosynthetic Reaction Centers, K. M. Faries, L. L. Kressel, M. J. Wander, D. Holten, P. D. Laible, C. Kirmaier, and D. K. Hanson J. Biol. Chem. 2012, 287, 8507-8514. 

Photochemistry of a Bacterial Reaction Center Missing the Initial Bacteriochlorophyll Electron Acceptor, B. Carter, S. G. Boxer, D. Holten and C. Kirmaier J. Phys. Chem. B. 2012, 116, 9971-9982
Protein Influence on Charge-Asymmetry of the Primary Donor in Photosynthetic Bacterial Reaction Centers Containing a Heterodimer:  Effects on Photophysical Properties and Electron Transfer, M. A. Harris, C. A. Luehr, K. M. Faries, M. Wander, L. Kressel, D. Holten, D. K. Hanson, P. D. Laible and C. Kirmaier J. Phys. Chem. B. 2013, 117, 4028-4041.

Putative Hydrogen Bond to Tyrosine M208 in Photosynthetic Reaction Centers from Rhodobacter capsulatus  Significantly Slows Primary Charge Separation, M. Saggu, B. Carter, X. Zhou, K. Faries, L. Cegelski, D. Holten, S. G. Boxer and Christine Kirmaier, J. Phys. Chem. B. B 2014, 118, 6721-6732.

High Yield of Secondary B-side Electron Transfer in Mutant Rhodobacter capsulatus Reaction Centers, L. Kressel, K. Faries, M. J. Wander, C. E. Zogzas, R. J. Mejdrich, D. K. Hanson, D. Holten, P. D. Laible, and C. Kirmaier, Biochim. Biophys. Acta 2014, 1837¸ 18921903.

Species Differences in Unlocking B-side Electron Transfer in Bacterial Reaction Centers, N. P. Dylla, K. M. Faries, R. M. Wyllie, A. M. Swenson, D. K. Hanson, D. Holten, C. Kirmaier and P. D. Laible, Febs Lett., 2016, 590, 25152526.

Optimizing Multi-Step B-side Charge Separation in Photosynthetic Reaction Centers from Rhodobacter capsulatus, K. M. Faries, L. Kressel, N. P. Dylla, Marc J. Wander, D. K. Hanson, D. Holten, P. D. Laible, C. Kirmaier, Biochem. Biophys Acta. 2016, 1857,150-159.

Manipulating the Energetics and Rates of Electron Transfer in R. capsulatus Reaction Centers with Asymmetric Pigment Content, K. M. Faries, N. P. Dylla, D. K. Hanson, D. Holten, P. D. Laible, C. Kirmaier, J. Phys. Chem. B., 2017, 121, 6989-7004.

Augmenting light coverage for photosynthesis through YFP-enhanced charge separation at the Rhodobacter sphaeroides reaction centre, K. J. Grayson, K. M. Faries, X. Huang, P. Qian, P. Dilbeck, E. C. Martin, A. Hitchcock, C. Vasilev, J. M. Yuen, D. M. Niedzwiedzki, G. J. Leggett, D. Holten, C. Kirmaier and C. N. Hunter, Nature Communications, 2017, 8, 1-12.

Origin of Panchromaticity in MultichromophoreTetrapyrrole Arrays, J. M. Yuen, J. R. Diers, E. J. Alexy, A. Roy, A. K. Mandal, H. S. Kang, D. M. Niedzwiedzki, C. Kirmaier, J. S. Lindsey, D. F. B, and D. Holten , J. Phys. Chem. A 2018, 122, 7181-7201.

Awards and Honors

1990-1992 Panel member - Photosynthesis Program, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Competitive Research Grants
2010 Biosciences Panel Review Member, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, U.S. Dept. of Energy