Robert E. Blankenship, Ph.D.


Plant and Microbial Biosciences Program
Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Structural Biology Program

  • 314-935-7971

  • 314-935-6343; 314-935-9162

  • 314-935-5124

  • 1137

  • One Brookings Drive



  • biochemistry, bioinorganic chemistry, biophysics, Bioenergy, genomics, photosynthesis

  • Molecular mechanisms of energy storage in photosynthetic systems

Research Abstract:

Our research program is primarily concerned with elucidating the mechanism of the energy-storing reactions in photosynthetic organisms, as well as understanding the origin and early evolution of photosynthesis.

The chemical reactions leading to long-term energy storage in photosynthetic systems take place within the membrane-bound reaction center complex and an associated group of proteins that make up an electron transport chain. One of the central goals of our research is to identify the molecular parameters responsible for the fact that essentially every photon absorbed by the system leads to stable products. To this end, we do a variety of kinetic, thermodynamic and structural measurements on antenna complexes, reaction centers, electron transport proteins and isolated pigments, using a number of techniques, including ultrafast laser flash photolysis and UV-VIS, fluorescence and electron spin resonance spectroscopies, as well as biochemical and molecular biological analysis.

The appearance of photosynthesis and other metabolic processes such as nitrogen fixation had profound effects on the evolution of advanced life on Earth. Our analysis of whole bacterial genomes has revealed that these metabolic processes have complex evolutionary histories, including substantial horizontal gene transfer. We have also used a combination of genomic, molecular evolution techniques and biochemical analysis to identify and characterize previously unknown enzyme complexes with novel activities.

Selected Publications:

Ort DR, Merchant SS, Alric J, Barkan A, Blankenship RE, Bock R, Croce R, Hanson MR, Hibberd J, Lindstrom DL, Long SP, Moore TA, Moroney J, Niyogi KK, Parry M, Peralta-Yahya P, Prince R, Redding K, Spalding M, van Wijk K, Vermaas WFJ, von Caemmerer S, Weber W, Yeates T, Yuan J, Zhu X (2015) Redesigning photosynthesis to sustainably meet global food and bioenergy demand. Proc. Nat’l. Acad. Sci. USA 112: 8529-8536.

He G, Niedzwiedzki DM, Orf GS, Zhang H and Blankenship RE (2015) Dynamics of Energy and Electron Transfer in the FMO-Reaction Center Complex from the Phototrophic Green Sulfur Bacterium Chlorobaculum tepidum. Journal of Physical Chemistry B 119: 8321−8329.

Blankenship RE (2014) Molecular Mechanisms of Photosynthesis, 2nd Ed. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK. ISBN 978-1-4051-8975-0

Orf GS, Niedzwiedzki DM and Blankenship RE (2014) Intensity dependence of the excited state lifetime and triplet conversion yield in the FMO antenna protein. Journal of Physical Chemistry B 118: 2058-2069.

Zhang H, Niedzwiedzki DM, Liu H, Prado M, Jiang J, Gross ML and Blankenship RE (2014) The molecular mechanism of orange carotenoid protein-mediated photoprotection in cyanobacteria. Biochemistry 53: 13-19.

Niedzwiedzki DM, Liu H, Chen M and Blankenship RE (2014) Excited state properties of chlorophyll f in organic solvents at ambient and cryogenic temperatures. Photosynthesis Research 121: 25-34.

He G, Zhang H, King JD and Blankenship RE (2014) Structural analysis of the homodimeric reaction center complex from the photosynthetic green sulfur bacterium Chlorobaculum tepidum. Biochemistry 53: 4924-4930.

Jez JM and Blankenship RE (2014) Lights, X-rays, oxygen! Cell 158: 701-703. (IR)

King JD, Harrington L, Lada BM, He G, Cooley JW and Blankenship RE (2014) Site-directed mutagenesis of the highly perturbed copper site of auracyanin D. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics 564: 237-243.

King JD, Liu H, He G, Orf GS and Blankenship RE (2014) Chemical activation of the cyanobacterial orange carotenoid protein. FEBS Letters 588: 4561-4565.

Last Updated: 8/11/2015 4:38:04 PM

Back To Top

Follow us: