Photosynthesis is one of the most important biological processes on Earth. Through absorbing the energy in light, photosynthetic organisms create the oxygen that we breathe and convert carbon dioxide into sugars that we eat. Interestingly, photosynthetic organisms can adapt to available light by chemically modifying the scaffolds of their light-absorbing pigments in order to adapt to environments where sunlight is shaded or filtered. The mechanisms by which these pigments are tuned and organisms interpret environmental light signals are largely unknown. Understanding how organisms sense and adapt to light presents opportunities to engineer photosynthetic pigments and photosynthetic organisms to have altered light absorbing properties. This knowledge has potential impacts on human health, agriculture, and bioengineering. The Bridwell-Rabb Lab uses structural biology, biochemistry, enzymology, and metalloprotein expertise to explore the molecular details of how organisms harness light, extend the spectrum of light available for photosynthesis, and filter out harmful UV-radiation.
*Special thanks to Dr. Michael Funk for contribution of several crystal images displayed above