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Science 309 (5733): 484-487

Copyright © 2005 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Chromatic Adaptation of Photosynthetic Membranes

Simon Scheuring1*, and James N. Sturgis2

Abstract: Many biological membranes adapt in response to environmental conditions. We investigated how the composition and architecture of photosynthetic membranes of a bacterium change in response to light, using atomic force microscopy. Despite large modifications in the membrane composition, the local environment of core complexes remained unaltered, whereas specialized paracrystalline light-harvesting antenna domains grew under low-light conditions. Thus, the protein mixture in the membrane shows eutectic behavior and can be mimicked by a simple model. Such structural adaptation ensures efficient photon capture under low-light conditions and prevents photodamage under high-light conditions.

1 Institut Curie, Unité Mixte de Recherche–CNRS 168, 11 rue Pierre et Marie Curie, 75231 Paris Cedex 05, France.
2 Unité Propre de Recherche–9027 Laboratoire d'Indenierie de Systemes Macromoleculaires, Institut de Biologie Structurale et Microbiologie, CNRS, 31 Chemin Joseph Aiguier, 13402 Marseille Cedex 20, France.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: simon.scheuring{at}

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