Structural features of bacteriochlorophyll (BChl) a that are required for binding to the light-harvesting proteins of Rhodospirillum rubrum were determined by testing for reconstitution of the B873 or B820 (structural subunit of B873) light-harvesting complexes with BChl a analogues. The results indicate that the binding site is very specific; of the analogues tested, only derivatives of BChl a with ethyl, phytyl, and geranylgeranyl esterifying alcohols and BChl b (phytyl) successfully reconstituted to form B820-and B873-type complexes. BChl analogues lacking magnesium, the C-3 acetyl group, or the C-132 carbomethoxy group did not reconstitute to form B820 or B873. Also unreactive were 132-hydroxyBChl a and 3-acetylchlorophyll a. Competition experiments showed that several of these nonreconstituting analogues significantly slowed BChl a binding to form B820 and blocked BChl a-B873 formation, indicating that the analogues may competitively bind to the protein even though they do not form red-shifted complexes. With the R. rubrum polypeptides, BChl b formed complexes that were further red-shifted than those of BChl a; however, the energies of the red shifts, binding behavior, and circular dichroism (CD) spectra were similar. B873 complexes reconstituted with the geranylgeranyl BChl a derivative, which contains the native esterifying alcohol for R. rubrum, showed in-vivo-like CD features, but the phytyl and ethyl B873 complexes showed inverted CD features in the near infrared. The B820 complex with the ethyl derivative was about 30-fold less stable than the two longer esterifying alcohol derivatives, but all formed stable B873 complexes.
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