Chromatophore heterogeneity explains phenomena seen in Rhodobacter sphaeroides previously attributed to supercomplexes

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It is generally considered that metabolic reactions are well described by homogeneous kinetic models in which the reaction phase is statistically uniform. In membranes, especially in photosynthetic systems where the protein complement is high, it has recently been recognized that effects of local heterogeneity might contribute additional factors that perturb the kinetic behavior, and require more extensive treatment. We show in this paper that statistical heterogeneity in vesicular systems can also contribute to quite marked discrepancies from the behavior expected from standard kinetic and thermodynamic models, for reactions involving free diffusion in the aqueous phase. We explain the kinetic and thermodynamic effects observed in studies of photosynthetic electron transfer in cells and chromatophores from Rhodobacter sphaeroides previously attributed to supercomplexes, in terms of a model based on heterogeneity in distribution of electron transfer components among the chromatophore population. We discuss examples of data inconsistent with the supercomplex model, but well explained by the heterogeneity model.

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