Mass Spectrometry Reveals Water to Energy Pathway

Plants, algae and some single-celled organisms produce energy through a process called photosynthesis; this chemical process converts sunlight into chemical energy through an electron transport chain. Although scientists have gained a deep understanding of the process, an ancient strain of cyanobacteria with photosynthetic capabilities have offered the first experimental study on how water is turned to energy. Mass spectrometry was used to determine the pathway of water in the process, helping to build on the knowledge of photosynthesis, this knowledge can also be applied to other areas including green fuels research and production. This article will explore the discoveries surrounding photosynthesis and how mass spectrometer instruments were used during the study.

Researchers understood that water was needed during photosynthesis at the ‘active site’ of the Photosystem II protein complex. However, it was hard to measure the exact pathway experimentally. Active sites produce reactive oxygen species which travel in the opposite direction of water, creating a ‘damage trail’ which could be observed using high-resolution mass spectrometry. Using these damage trails, scientists have been able to identify pathways from the active sites all the way to the surface of the organism; they propose these pathways are used to deliver water to the active sites. Professor Pakrasi from the International Center for Energy predicts that a deeper understanding of the enzymes in Photosystem II could help replicate the process in green fuel development, creating an abundant source of sustainable energy.

The damage trials were analysed using mass spectrometers; it was found that they comprised of 36 amino acid residues from three proteins found near the manganese cluster. However, the damage pathways can only be considered a proxy discovery as they show the movement of the highly reactive radicals, not the water molecules. The team credited the high-resolution mass spectrometry instruments for allowing them to accurately identify a large number of damage sites. Studying evolution, it has been proposed that cyanobacteria are the precursor to chloroplasts, the part of the cell where photosynthesis occurs. Understanding more about Photosystem II develops our knowledge of cyanobacteria, which in turn should lead to a greater understanding of photosynthesis in plants and algae.

MS Tech Solutions is based in Manchester and is part of the X-WAME group, offering customers the latest mass spectrometers and mass spec services at affordable prices. With a wide range of mass spectrometry instruments, their high-resolution MS instruments are installed by skilled engineers and make a great addition to your MS lab. Their team prides itself on providing the latest MS service innovation through ongoing improvements to services and technology to maximise instrument performance.

In addition to their range of high-resolution mass spectrometers, MS Tech Solutions also supplies a range of laboratory equipment including custom mass spec benches, noise suppression units and nitrogen generators. MS Tech Solutions also has a range of refurbished mass spec instruments with various upgrade options available.

To speak to a member of the MS Tech Solution team about any of their products or services, call on +44 (0)161 9989 219 or contact us here.

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