The photosynthetic membranes of green plants are organized into stacked regions interconnected by nonstacked regions that have been shown to be biochemically and structurally distinct. Because the stacking process occludes the surfaces of appressed membranes, it has been impossible to conduct structural or biochemical studies of the outer surfaces of the photosynthetic membrane in regions of membrane stacking. Although stacking is mediated at this surface, it has not been possible to determine whether membrane components implicated in the stacking process, including a major light-harvesting complex (LHC-II), are in fact exposed at the membrane surface. We have been able to expose this surface for study in the electron microscope and directly label it with antibodies to determine protein exposure. The appearance of the newly exposed outer stacked surface highlights the extreme lateral heterogeneity of the photosynthetic membrane. The surface is smooth in contrast to the neighboring nonstacked surface that is covered with distinct particles. Although some investigators have suggested the existence of a cytochrome b6/f-rich boundary region between stacked and nonstacked membranes, our results provide no structural support for this concept. To explore the biochemical nature of the occluded membrane surface, we have used an mAb against the amino terminal region of the LHC-II. This mAb clearly labels the newly exposed outer stacked surface but does not label the inner surface or the outer nonstacked surface. These experimental results confirm the presence of the amino terminal region of this complex at the outer surface of the membrane in stacked regions, and also show that this complex is largely absent from nonstacked membranes.

This content is only available as a PDF.