Synechocystis 6701 phycobilisomes consist of a core of three cylindrical elements in an equilateral array from which extend in a fanlike manner six rods, each made up of three to four stacked disks. Previous studies (see Gingrich, J. C., L. K. Blaha, and A. N. Glazer, 1982. J. Cell Biol. 92:261-268) have shown that the rods consist of four disk-shaped complexes of biliproteins with "linker" polypeptides of 27-, 33.5-, 31.5-, and 30.5-kdaltons, listed in order starting with the disk proximal to the core: phycocyanin (alpha beta)6-27 kdalton, phycocyanin (alpha beta)6-33.5 kdalton, phycoerythrin (alpha beta)6-31.5 kdalton, phycoerythrin (alpha beta)6-30.5 kdalton, where alpha beta is the monomer of the biliprotein. Phycoerythrin complexes of the 31.5- and 30.5-kdalton polypeptides were isolated in low salt. In 0.05 M K-phosphate-1 mM EDTA at pH 7.0, these complexes had the average composition (alpha beta)2-31.5 and (alpha beta)-30.5 kdalton polypeptide, respectively. Peptide mapping of purified 31.5- and 30.5-kdalton polypeptides showed that they differed significantly in primary structure. In 0.65 M Na-K-phosphate at pH 8, these phycoerythrin complexes formed rods of stacked disks of composition (alpha beta)6-31.5 or (alpha beta)6-30.5 kdaltons. For the (alpha beta)-30.5 kdalton complex, the yield of rod assemblies was variable and the self-association of free phycoerythrin to smaller aggregates was an important competing reaction. Complementation experiments were performed with incomplete phycobilisomes from Synechocystis 6701 mutant strain CM25. These phycobilisomes are totally lacking in phycoerythrin and the 31.5- and 30.5-kdalton polypeptides, but have no other apparent structural defects. In high phosphate at pH 8, the phycoerythrin-31.5-kdalton complex formed disk assemblies at the end of the rod substructures of CM25 phycobilisomes whereas no interaction with the phycoerythrin-30.5 kdalton complex was detected. In mixtures of both the phycoerythrin-31.5 and -30.5 kdalton complexes with CM25 phycobilisomes, both complexes were incorporated at the distal ends of the rod substructures. The efficiency of energy transfer from the added phycoerythrin in complemented phycobilisomes was approximately 96%. The results show that the ordered assembly of phycoerythrin complexes seen in phycobilisomes is reproduced in the in vitro assembly process.

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