Molecular Principles of Redox-Coupled Protonation Dynamics in Photosystem II

Friederike Allgöwer, Ana P. Gamiz-Hernandez, A. William Rutherford, Ville R.I. Kaila

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Photosystem II (PSII) catalyzes light-driven water oxidization, releasing O2into the atmosphere and transferring the electrons for the synthesis of biomass. However, despite decades of structural and functional studies, the water oxidation mechanism of PSII has remained puzzling and a major challenge for modern chemical research. Here, we show that PSII catalyzes redox-triggered proton transfer between its oxygen-evolving Mn4O5Ca cluster and a nearby cluster of conserved buried ion-pairs, which are connected to the bulk solvent via a proton pathway. By using multi-scale quantum and classical simulations, we find that oxidation of a redox-active Tyrz(Tyr161) lowers the reaction barrier for the water-mediated proton transfer from a Ca2+-bound water molecule (W3) to Asp61 via conformational changes in a nearby ion-pair (Asp61/Lys317). Deprotonation of this W3 substrate water triggers its migration toward Mn1 to a position identified in recent X-ray free-electron laser (XFEL) experiments [Ibrahim et al. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2020, 117, 12,624-12,635]. Further oxidation of the Mn4O5Ca cluster lowers the proton transfer barrier through the water ligand sphere of the Mn4O5Ca cluster to Asp61 via a similar ion-pair dissociation process, while the resulting Mn-bound oxo/oxyl species leads to O2formation by a radical coupling mechanism. The proposed redox-coupled protonation mechanism shows a striking resemblance to functional motifs in other enzymes involved in biological energy conversion, with an interplay between hydration changes, ion-pair dynamics, and electric fields that modulate the catalytic barriers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7171-7180
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number16
StatePublished - 27 Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes


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