Lipid polymorphism in chloroplast thylakoid membranes - as revealed by 31P-NMR and time-resolved merocyanine fluorescence spectroscopy

Gyozo Garab, Bettina Ughy, Pieter De Waard, Parveen Akhtar, Uroš Javornik, Christos Kotakis, Primož Šket, Václav Karlický, Zuzana Materová, Vladimír Špunda, Janez Plavec, Herbert Van Amerongen, László Vígh, Henk van As, Petar H. Lambrev*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Chloroplast thylakoid membranes contain virtually all components of the energy-converting photosynthetic machinery. Their energized state, driving ATP synthesis, is enabled by the bilayer organization of the membrane. However, their most abundant lipid species is a non-bilayer-forming lipid, monogalactosyl-diacylglycerol; the role of lipid polymorphism in these membranes is poorly understood. Earlier 31P-NMR experiments revealed the coexistence of a bilayer and a non-bilayer, isotropic lipid phase in spinach thylakoids. Packing of lipid molecules, tested by fluorescence spectroscopy of the lipophilic dye, merocyanine-540 (MC540), also displayed heterogeneity. Now, our 31P-NMR experiments on spinach thylakoids uncover the presence of a bilayer and three non-bilayer lipid phases; time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy of MC540 also reveals the presence of multiple lipidic environments. It is also shown by 31P-NMR that: (i) some lipid phases are sensitive to the osmolarity and ionic strength of the medium, (ii) a lipid phase can be modulated by catalytic hydrogenation of fatty acids and (iii) a marked increase of one of the non-bilayer phases upon lowering the pH of the medium is observed. These data provide additional experimental evidence for the polymorphism of lipid phases in thylakoids and suggest that non-bilayer phases play an active role in the structural dynamics of thylakoid membranes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number13343
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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