Study reveals how plants store energy in the thylakoid membrane

A new computer model developed by a research team led by Washington State University could help better understand how plants store energy in the thylakoid membrane, a fundamental component in photosynthesis in plant leaves.

Study reveals how plants store energy in the thylakoid membrane
Helmut Kirchhoff. Image Credit: Washington State University.

The scientists used lab experiments to verify the accuracy of the mathematical model. Their findings were published in Nature Plants.

We provided an important piece to the overall puzzle of plant metabolism. If we integrate our model into the bigger picture, it may provide a good path for how to improve plants for certain environments.”

Helmut Kirchhoff, Team Leader and Professor, Institute of Biological Chemistry, Washington State University

Plants use photosynthesis to turn sunlight into usable energy, but they constantly modify where and how they store this energy based on light levels, temperature, moisture, and other conditions.

Understanding how plants make these modifications could help us better understand how they operate in the field and aid in the development of novel plants that can tolerate rising temperatures as a result of climate change.

The results of Kirchhoff and his coworkers could have far-reaching ramifications and benefits in the future when their model is combined with others to learn more about how photosynthesis works.

In the chloroplasts of leaves, specialized thylakoid membranes convert sunlight into energy and store it.

It functions like a battery. In leaves, plants pump protons from one side of the thylakoid membrane to the other generating a gradient of positive and negative charges.”

Helmut Kirchhoff, Team Leader and Professor, Institute of Biological Chemistry, Washington State University

Ion channels manage the variability in the quantity of energy available to regulate this energy storage, he explained. Understanding this intricate process could be the key to feeding the world’s population as the earth warms.

Photosynthesis is very powerful. If it’s not controlled, it can produce too much energy, which creates dangerous molecules that can kill a plant. Engineering plants with better photosynthetic control would mean those plants could survive in sunnier, warmer conditions.”

Helmut Kirchhoff, Team Leader and Professor, Institute of Biological Chemistry, Washington State University

The researchers used various lights to shine on leaves and recorded the changes in absorption and fluorescence.

We illuminate leaves with different light intensities to create excited states in pigments. The leaf then changes its absorption and fluorescence properties that we measure, telling us what is going on in the leaf,” concluded Kirchhoff.

Source:
Journal reference:

Li, M., et al. (2021) Impact of ion fluxes across thylakoid membranes on photosynthetic electron transport and photoprotection. Nature Plants. doi.org/10.1038/s41477-021-00947-5.

Comments

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of AZoLifeSciences.
You might also like... ×
Study identifies gene families responsible for simple leaf development