Simultaneous Femtosecond X-ray Spectroscopy and Diffraction of Photosystem II at Room Temperature

Science  26 Apr 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6131, pp. 491-495
DOI: 10.1126/science.1234273

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One Protein, Two Probes

A central challenge in the use of x-ray diffraction to characterize macromolecular structure is the propensity of the high-energy radiation to damage the sample during data collection. Recently, a powerful accelerator-based, ultrafast x-ray laser source has been used to determine the geometric structures of small protein crystals too fragile for conventional diffraction techniques. Kern et al. (p. 491, published online 14 February) now pair this method with concurrent x-ray emission spectroscopy to probe electronic structure, as well as geometry, and were able to characterize the metal oxidation states in the oxygen-evolving complex within photosystem II crystals, while simultaneously verifying the surrounding protein structure.


Intense femtosecond x-ray pulses produced at the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) were used for simultaneous x-ray diffraction (XRD) and x-ray emission spectroscopy (XES) of microcrystals of photosystem II (PS II) at room temperature. This method probes the overall protein structure and the electronic structure of the Mn4CaO5 cluster in the oxygen-evolving complex of PS II. XRD data are presented from both the dark state (S1) and the first illuminated state (S2) of PS II. Our simultaneous XRD-XES study shows that the PS II crystals are intact during our measurements at the LCLS, not only with respect to the structure of PS II, but also with regard to the electronic structure of the highly radiation-sensitive Mn4CaO5 cluster, opening new directions for future dynamics studies.

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