* To whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received March 18, 2011; Revision received May 16, 2011
During photosynthesis light energy is converted into energy of chemical bonds through a series of electron and proton transfer reactions. Over the first ultrafast steps of photosynthesis that take place in the reaction center (RC) the quantum efficiency of the light energy transduction is nearly 100%. Compared to the plant and cyanobacterial photosystems, bacterial RCs are well studied and have relatively simple structure. Therefore they represent a useful model system both for manipulating of the electron transfer parameters to study detailed mechanisms of its separate steps as well as to investigate the common principles of the photosynthetic RC structure, function, and evolution. This review is focused on the research papers devoted to chemical and genetic modifications of the RCs of purple bacteria in order to study principles and mechanisms of their functioning. Investigations of the last two decades show that the maximal rates of the electron transfer reactions in the RC depend on a number of parameters. Chemical structure of the cofactors, distances between them, their relative orientation, and interactions to each other are of great importance for this process. By means of genetic and spectral methods, it was demonstrated that RC protein is also an essential factor affecting the efficiency of the photochemical charge separation. Finally, some of conservative water molecules found in RC not only contribute to stability of the protein structure, but are directly involved in the functioning of the complex.
KEY WORDS: bacterial photosynthesis, photosynthetic reaction center, site-directed mutagenesis, photosynthetic electron transfer, purple bacteria