In an attempt to optimize a high yield, high efficiency artificial photosynthetic protein we have discovered unique energy and spatial architecture limits which apply to all light-activated photosynthetic systems. We have generated an analytical solution for the time behavior of the core three cofactor charge separation element in photosynthesis, the photosynthetic cofactor triad, and explored the functional consequences of its makeup including its architecture, the reduction potentials of its components, and the absorption energy of the light absorbing primary-donor cofactor. Our primary findings are two: First, that a high efficiency, high yield triad will have an absorption frequency more than twice the reorganization energy of the first electron transfer, and second, that the relative distance of the acceptor and the donor from the primary-donor plays an important role in determining the yields, with the highest efficiency, highest yield architecture having the light absorbing cofactor closest to the acceptor. Surprisingly, despite the increased complexity found in natural solar energy conversion proteins, we find that the construction of this central triad in natural systems matches these predictions. Our analysis thus not only suggests explanations for some aspects of the makeup of natural photosynthetic systems, it also provides specific design criteria necessary to create high efficiency, high yield artificial protein-based triads.
Punnoose, A., McConnell, L., Liu, W., Mutter, A. C. & Koder, R. (2012). Fundamental Limits on Wavelength, Efficiency and Yield of the Charge Separation Triad. PLoS ONE, 7(6), e36065. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0036065.