Computer modeling of electron and proton transport in chloroplasts

Alexander N. Tikhonov, Alexey V. Vershubskii

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Photosynthesis is one of the most important biological processes in biosphere, which provides production of organic substances from atmospheric CO2 and water at expense of solar energy. In this review, we contemplate computer models of oxygenic photosynthesis in the context of feedback regulation of photosynthetic electron transport in chloroplasts, the energy-transducing organelles of the plant cell. We start with a brief overview of electron and proton transport processes in chloroplasts coupled to ATP synthesis and consider basic regulatory mechanisms of oxygenic photosynthesis. General approaches to computer simulation of photosynthetic processes are considered, including the random walk models of plastoquinone diffusion in thylakoid membranes and deterministic approach to modeling electron transport in chloroplasts based on the mass action law. Then we focus on a kinetic model of oxygenic photosynthesis that includes key stages of the linear electron transport, alternative pathways of electron transfer around photosystem I (PSI), transmembrane proton transport and ATP synthesis in chloroplasts. This model includes different regulatory processes: pH-dependent control of the intersystem electron transport, down-regulation of photosystem II (PSII) activity (non-photochemical quenching), the light-induced activation of the Bassham-Benson-Calvin (BBC) cycle. The model correctly describes pH-dependent feedback control of electron transport in chloroplasts and adequately reproduces a variety of experimental data on induction events observed under different experimental conditions in intact chloroplasts (variations of CO2 and O2 concentrations in atmosphere), including a complex kinetics of P700 (primary electron donor in PSI) photooxidation, CO2 consumption in the BBC cycle, and photorespiration. Finally, we describe diffusion-controlled photosynthetic processes in chloroplasts within the framework of the model that takes into account complex architecture of chloroplasts and lateral heterogeneity of lamellar system of thylakoids. The lateral profiles of pH in the thylakoid lumen and in the narrow gap between grana thylakoids have been calculated under different metabolic conditions. Analyzing topological aspects of diffusion-controlled stages of electron and proton transport in chloroplasts, we conclude that along with the NPQ mechanism of attenuation of PSII activity and deceleration of PQH2 oxidation by the cytochrome b6f complex caused by the lumen acidification, the intersystem electron transport may be down-regulated due to the light-induced alkalization of the narrow partition between adjacent thylakoids of grana. The computer models of electron and proton transport described in this article may be integrated as appropriate modules into a comprehensive model of oxygenic photosynthesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Chloroplasts
  • Electron and proton transport
  • Mathematical modeling
  • Photosynthesis
  • Regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Applied Mathematics

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