The Molecular Mechanisms of Photoactivation of Orange Carotenoid Protein Revealed by Molecular Dynamics

01 October 2020, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Light-harvesting in photosynthesis is accompanied by photoprotective processes. In cyanobacteria, the photoprotective role is played by a specialized complex, the Orange Carotenoid Protein which is activated by strong blue-green light. This photoactivation involves a unique series of structural changes which terminate with an opening of the complex into two separated domains, one of which acts as a quencher for the light-harvesting complexes. Many experimental studies have tried to reveal the molecular mechanisms through which the energy absorbed by the carotenoid finally leads to the large conformational change of the complex. Here for the first time, these mechanisms are revealed by simulating at atomistic level the whole dynamics of the complex through an effective combination of enhanced sampling techniques. On the basis of our findings, we can conclude that the carotenoid does not act as a spring that, releasing its internal strain, induces the dissociation, as it was previously proposed but as a "latch" locking together the two domains. The photochemically triggered displacement of the carotenoid breaks this balance, allowing the complex to dissociate.


Molecular Dynamics
Orange Carotenoid Protein

Supplementary materials



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