“Until now, it was not known how the order of events is guaranteed,” Kirchhoff said. “Our results suggest that we have to understand the structural characteristics and dynamics of photosynthetic membranes to understand the repair of the energy-converting nanomachines. This has not been appreciated before.”
Helmut Kirchhoff, an assistant professor in WSU’s Institute of Biological Chemistry and corresponding author of the PNAS paper, said plants have had to deal with solar damage since the evolution of photosynthesis some 3.5 billion years ago. The process produces energy for the plant but also creates modified oxygen molecules, called reactive oxygen species, or ROS, that can damage proteins and other important plant molecules.
“ROS production can’t be avoided, only minimized,” said Kirchhoff. “It becomes a big problem for plants under unfavorable environmental conditions, like too much heat, too much light or insufficient nutrition.”