Substrate water exchange in the S2 state of photosystem II is dependent on the conformation of the Mn4Ca cluster
In photosynthesis, dioxygen formation from water is catalyzed by the oxygen evolving complex (OEC) in Photosystem II (PSII) that harbours the Mn4Ca cluster. During catalysis, the OEC cycles through five redox states, S0 to S4. In the S2 state, the Mn4Ca cluster can exist in two conformations, which are signified by the low-spin (LS) g = 2 EPR multiline signal and the high-spin (HS) g = 4.1 EPR signal. Here, we employed time-resolved membrane inlet mass spectrometry to measure the kinetics of H218O/H216O exchange between bulk water and the two substrate waters bound at the Mn4Ca cluster in the SLS2, SHS2, and the S3 states in both Ca-PSII and Sr-PSII core complexes from T. elongatus. We found that the slowly exchanging substrate water exchanges 10 times faster in the SHS2 than in the SLS2 state, and that the SLS2 → SHS2 conversion has at physiological temperature an activation barrier of 17 ± 1 kcal mol−1. Of the presently suggested SHS2 models, our findings are best in agreement with a water exchange pathway involving a SHS2 state that has an open cubane structure with a hydroxide bound between Ca and Mn1. We also show that water exchange in the S3 state is governed by a different equilibrium than in S2, and that the exchange of the fast substrate water in the S2 state is unaffected by Ca/Sr substitution. These findings support that (i) O5 is the slowly exchanging substrate water, with W2 being the only other option, and (ii) either W2 or W3 is the fast exchanging substrate. The three remaining possibilities for O–O bond formation in PSII are discussed.