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Title: Photosynthesis tunes quantum-mechanical mixing of electronic and vibrational states to steer exciton energy transfer

Photosynthetic species evolved to protect their light-harvesting apparatus from photoxidative damage driven by intracellular redox conditions or environmental conditions. The Fenna–Matthews–Olson (FMO) pigment–protein complex from green sulfur bacteria exhibits redox-dependent quenching behavior partially due to two internal cysteine residues. Here, we show evidence that a photosynthetic complex exploits the quantum mechanics of vibronic mixing to activate an oxidative photoprotective mechanism. We use two-dimensional electronic spectroscopy (2DES) to capture energy transfer dynamics in wild-type and cysteine-deficient FMO mutant proteins under both reducing and oxidizing conditions. Under reducing conditions, we find equal energy transfer through the exciton 4–1 and 4–2-1 pathways because the exciton 4–1 energy gap is vibronically coupled with a bacteriochlorophyll-avibrational mode. Under oxidizing conditions, however, the resonance of the exciton 4–1 energy gap is detuned from the vibrational mode, causing excitons to preferentially steer through the indirect 4–2-1 pathway to increase the likelihood of exciton quenching. We use a Redfield model to show that the complex achieves this effect by tuning the site III energy via the redox state of its internal cysteine residues. This result shows how pigment–protein complexes exploit the quantum mechanics of vibronic coupling to steer energy transfer.

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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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Article No. e2018240118
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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National Science Foundation
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