Large scale FRET simulations reveal the control parameters of phycobilisome light harvesting complexes

Emma Joy Dodson, Nicholas Werren, Yossi Paltiel, Erik M. Gauger, Nir Keren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
26 Downloads (Pure)


Phycobilisomes (PBS) are massive structures that absorb and transfer light energy to photochemical reaction centres. Among the range of light harvesting systems, PBS are considered to be excellent solutions for absorption cross-sections but relatively inefficient energy transferring systems. This is due to the combination of a large number of chromophores with intermediate coupling distances. Nevertheless, PBS systems persisted from the origin of oxygenic photosynthesis to present-day cyanobacteria and red algae, organisms that account for approximately half of the primary productivity in the ocean. In this study, we modelled energy transfer through subsets of PBS structures, using a comprehensive dynamic Hamiltonian model. Our approach was applied, initially, to pairs of phycobilin hexamers and then extended to short rods. By manipulating the distances and angles between the structures, we could probe the dynamics of exciton transfer. These simulations suggest that the PBS chromophore network enhances energy distribution over the entire PBS structure-both horizontally and vertically to the rod axis. Furthermore, energy transfer was found to be relatively immune to the effects of distances or rotations, within the range of intermediate coupling distances. Therefore, we suggest that the PBS provides unique advantages and flexibility to aquatic photosynthesis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20220580
JournalJournal of the Royal Society. Interface
Issue number196
Early online date30 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


  • energy transfer
  • photosynthesis
  • phycobilisome
  • quantum effects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering


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