Despite extensive study, mysteries remain regarding the highly efficient ultrafast charge separation processes in photosynthetic reaction centers (RCs). In this work, transient Stark signals were found to be present in ultrafast two-dimensional electronic spectra recorded for purple bacterial RCs at 77 K. These arose from the electric field that is inherent to the intradimer charge-transfer intermediate of the bacteriochlorophyll pair (P), PA+PB–. By comparing three mutated RCs, a correlation was found between the efficient formation of PA+PB– and a fast charge separation rate. Importantly, the energy level of P* was changed due to the Stark shift, influencing the driving force for P* → P+BA– electron transfer and hence its rate. Furthermore, the orientation and amplitude of the inherent electric field varied in different ways upon different mutation, leading to contrasting changes in the rates. This mechanism of modulation provides a solution to a long-lasting inconsistency between experimental observations and activation energy theory.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 21903086), the National Key R&D Program of China (No. 2019YFA0904600), the European Research Council through an Advanced Investigator grant (No. 267333, PHOTPROT), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council of the U.K. (Project BB/I022570/1), and the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (No. 18-04-00105).
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