The structure of the spinach thylakoid outer surface has been examined by deepetching, a technique which exposes the true surfaces of biological membranes by sublimination of frozen dilute buffer. The membrane surface is covered with large (150 A average diameter) and small (90 A average diameter) particles. Approximately 30% of the large particles can be removed under conditions reported to selectively remove carboxydismutase from the membrane surface. The remaining large particles can be removed only under conditions which cause a loss of coupling factor activity. When purified coupling factor is readded to membranes from which all coupling factor activity has been removed, large particles reappear, indicating that they represent coupling factor molecules. Since the number of particles and the amount of ATPase activity in the reconstituted and control membranes were the same, coupling factor molecules may be attached to specific binding sites. Analysis of antibody labeling experiments, enzyme assays, and experiments involving the unstacking and restacking of thylakoid membranes indicate that coupling factor is excluded from regions of membrane stacking (grana) and is present only in unstacked membrane regions. The exclusion of coupling factor from grana, which are known to be centers of intense photosynthetic activity, strongly suggests that the mechanism coupling electron transport to photophosphorylation is indirect. In addition to the large and small particles, in some cases regularly spaced ridges are visible on the outer surface after unstacking. Coupling factor binding sites seem to be excluded from regions where these structures occur.

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