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The Dynamic Protein Matrix in Photosynthesis: From Disorder to Life


With the PHOTPROT project, Bruno Robert and Rienk Van Grondelle aim to study the role of protein matrix dynamics in photosynthetic processes. To do so, they will develop advanced biophysical approaches and new spectroscopic techniques. Among these, a method capable of extracting very high resolution images from images obtained by conventional confocal fluorescence microscopy.  

european funding: European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant


Published on 1 February 2011


In photosynthesis, sunlight is collected by an antenna, the energy is transferred to the photosynthetic reaction center where charge separation occurs. These processes occur on an ultra-fast time scale and lead to a stable product. The photosynthetic apparatus consists of a complex set of pigment-proteins that perform these delicate processes with quantum efficiency close to 1. The proteins are inherently disordered with fast dynamics, from femtoseconds to seconds. In this project, the PI, R Van Grondelle, wishes to explore how this dynamic protein matrix facilitates or perhaps even drives the primary events of photosynthesis. With his co-investigator Bruno Robert, the PI plans to study four aspects of how the protein matrix may affect this important biological process.
1- We will study whether charge separation in Photosystem 2 occurs along multiple pathways, depending on the realization of the disorder. 2- We will study the possible role of quantum coherence in charge separation in Photosystem 2. 3- We will study how the dynamic protein matrix stabilizes, perhaps even actively, the early charge separation. 4 - We will attempt to discover how functional transitions in photosynthetic proteins are coupled to conformational changes. This project combines a number of state-of-the-art biophysical approaches and in addition aims to develop new techniques: two-dimensional electron spectroscopy and plasmonic wave resonance spectroscopy. The final result will provide a unique insight into how the physics of protein matter manifests itself in biology. 

Project duration
6 years

€ 2 864 400

​Number of partners

Starting date
February 01, 2011

CEA researcher : Bruno Robert

Contact :

agreement id : 267333



ERC Advanced Grants enable outstanding researchers of established reputation, regardless of nationality or age, to pursue innovative, high-risk projects that break new ground in their discipline or other fields.

These grants are intended for researchers who have already established themselves as distinguished independent investigators.

There are no nationality or age requirements: applicants must be scientifically independent and have a recent research record and profile that establishes them as leaders in their field(s) of specialization.