Isolated appressed chloroplast membranes, highly enriched in photosystem II (PSII) activity, were examined by freeze-etch electron microscopy. The exposed surfaces of these Triton X-100 solubilized membrane fragments correspond to the lumenal or ESs surface of intact stacked thylakoid membrane regions (Dunahay, T. G., L. A. Staehelin, M. Seibert, P. D. Ogilvie, and S. P. Berg. 1984. Biochim. Biophys. Acta. 764:179-193). The sequential removal from this sample of three extrinsic proteins (17, 23, and 33 kD) associated with the O2-evolving apparatus and the concomitant loss of O2 evolution, was related to subtle changes in the height and substructure of characteristic multimeric (often tetrameric) particles that protrude from the ESs membrane surface. After removal of these proteins, the multimeric particles disappeared and dimeric particles of similar diameter but of lesser height (6.1 vs. 8.2 nm in the controls) were observed. Reconstitution of the depleted membrane fragments with the extrinsic proteins led to rebinding of the three proteins, to a 63% recovery of the control rates of O2 evolution, and to the reappearance of the larger multimeric particles. Analysis of the structural changes associated with the loss and rebinding of the extrinsic proteins is consistent with a stoichiometry of one PSII complex for either one or two copies of the 17-, 23-, and 33-kD proteins, and these are symmetrically arranged on the lumenal surface of the complex. These results demonstrate that the multimeric ESs particles correspond to part of the intact O2-evolving apparatus of PSII, thus confirming previous indirect studies relating these particles to PSII. The dimeric particles probably contain the rest of the O2-evolving complex.

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