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Neutron scattering in photosynthesis research: recent advances and perspectives for testing crop plants...

by Gergely Nagy, Gyozo Garab
Publication Type
Journal Name
Photosynthesis Research
Publication Date
Page Numbers
41 to 49

The photosynthetic performance of crop plants under a variety of environmental factors and stress conditions, at the fundamental level, depends largely on the organization and structural flexibility of thylakoid membranes. These highly organized membranes accommodate virtually all protein complexes and additional compounds carrying out the light reactions of photosynthesis. Most regulatory mechanisms fine-tuning the photosynthetic functions affect the organization of thylakoid membranes at different levels of the structural complexity. In order to monitor these reorganizations, non-invasive techniques are of special value. On the mesoscopic scale, small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) has been shown to deliver statistically and spatially averaged information on the periodic organization of the thylakoid membranes in vivo and/or, in isolated thylakoids, under physiologically relevant conditions, without fixation or staining. More importantly, SANS investigations have revealed rapid reversible reorganizations on the timescale of several seconds and minutes. In this paper, we give a short introduction into the basics of SANS technique, advantages and limitations, and briefly overview recent advances and potential applications of this technique in the physiology and biotechnology of crop plants. We also discuss future perspectives of neutron crystallography and different neutron scattering techniques, which are anticipated to become more accessible and of more use in photosynthesis research at new facilities with higher fluxes and innovative instrumentation.