Science Faculty Colloquium: How purple photosynthetic bacteria harvest solar energy: From single molecules to whole bacterial communities

5 March 2012, 4.00 PM - 5 March 2012, 4.00 PM

Lecture Theatre E29, School of Medical Sciences, University Walk, Bristol

Speaker: Professor Richard Cogdell, FRS, of the University of Glasgow

Purple photosynthetic bacteria have evolved an elegant set of light-harvesting complexes that can efficiently absorb solar energy and transfer it to special sites called reaction centres where that light energy is used to initiate photosynthesis.  This talk will describe structure and the function of the purple bacterial light complexes.  I will describe how using single molecules spectroscopy is possible to understand detailed energy transfer mechanisms that are obscured in normal ensemble spectroscopy.  The energy transfer reactions occur on the femtosecond and picosecond time scales.  Going to very fast reactions and using single molecules, naturally involves finding quantum effects.  These will be described.  Then using the information from the single molecules I will build up a picture of how these light-harvesting complexes function in their host biological membranes and discuss how the composition of these membranes is regulated by environmental factors.  These regulatory mechanisms allow the bacteria to compete in a wide range of different ecological niches. 

Cogdell, R. J., Gall, A., and Kohler, J. 2006 The architecture and function of the light-harvesting apparatus of purple bacteria: from single molecules to in vivo membranes Quarterly Reviews of Biophysics 39, 3, 227-324

Attendance is free and all are welcome but space will be limited so you are advised to come early. 

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