Towards an ab initio description of the optical spectra of light-harvesting antennae: application to the CP29 complex of photosystem II
Light-harvesting pigment–protein complexes (PPC) represent the fundamental units through which the photosynthetic organisms absorb sunlight and funnel the energy to the reaction centre for carrying out the primary energy conversion reactions of photosynthesis. Here we apply a multiscale computational strategy to a specific PPC present in the photosystem II of plants and algae (CP29) to investigate in what detail should the environment effects due to protein and membrane/solvent be included for an accurate description of optical spectra. We find that a refinement of the crystal structure is needed before any meaningful quantum chemical calculations of pigment transition energies can be performed. For this purpose we apply classical molecular dynamics simulations of the PPC within its natural environment and we perform ab initio computations of the exciton Hamiltonian of the complex, including the environment either implicitly by the polarizable continuum model (PCM) or explicitly using the polarizable QM/MM methodology (MMPol). However, PCM essentially leads to an unspecific redshift of all transition energies, and MMPol is able to reveal site-specific changes in the optical properties of the pigments. Based on the latter and the excitonic couplings obtained within a polarizable QM/MM methodology, optical spectra are calculated, which are in good qualitative agreement with experimental data. A weakness of the approach is however found in the overestimation of the fluctuations of the excitonic parameters of the pigments along the MD trajectory. An explanation for such a finding in terms of the limits of the force fields commonly used for protein cofactors is presented and discussed.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Theoretical chemistry developments: from electronic structure to simulations