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Research Fellows Directory

Alexander Ruban

Professor Alexander Ruban

Research Fellow


Queen Mary, University of London

Research summary

I am engaged in mechanistic photosynthesis research. I apply molecular spectroscopy, biophysics, biochemistry and molecular biology to important problems in plant physiology. Specifically, the role of the various components (proteins, lipids, pigments) and macrostructure in the functions and adaptive mechanisms of the photosynthetic membrane related to light harvesting and photoprotection in plants and algae. In addition I am interested in the universal properties of carotenoids in biological membranes, the molecular dynamics of these molecules in the modulation of membrane protein conformation and their functions (summarised in the recent book: Ruban, A.V. (2012) The Photosynthetic Membrane: Molecular Mechanisms and Biophysics of Light Harvesting. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, ISBN: 978-1-1199-6053-9).

My research has contributed to the fundamental understanding of the molecular design of the photosynthetic light harvesting machinery. My work contributed to hypothesis about the key role of LHCII antenna aggregation in the major photoprotective process in the photosynthetic membrane, NPQ and introduction of the concepts of light adaptation 'memory' via the allosteric action of the xanthophyll cycle, robust genetic design of the light harvesting antenna. My work led to discovery of the photoprotective molecular switch in the Photosystem II antenna which shortens the chlorophyll excited state lifetime protecting the photosynthetic membrane from photo-oxidative damage. I proposed that dynamics of antenna proteins is tuned by the polarity and structure of bound xanthophyll co-factors. Recently I established that the main photoprotective process in plants, NPQ, has an economic nature and developed a novel methodology for assessment of the photoprotective effectiveness of NPQ.

My laboratory is currently pursuing research projects in the following areas:

The molecular mechanism of energy dependent non-photochemical quenching (NPQ) (Pascal et al. (2005) Nature 436, 134-137; Ruban et al. (2007) Nature 450, 575-578; Belgio et al. (2014) Nature communications 5, 4433).

The interaction of xanthophylls with photosythetic proteins, role of xanthophyll structure in controlling structure and functions of membrane proteins (Ruban et al. (2000) FEBS Lett, 477, 181-185; Ruban and Johnson (2010) Arch. Biochem. Biophys. 504, 78-85).

Use of the light harvesting antenna design in the assembly of synthetic biological light energy storage devices (Lee et al. (2014) Journal of CO2 utilisation 5, 33-40).

The macro-molecular structure and dynamics of the photosynthetic membrane (Ruban et al., (2003) Nature 421, 648-652; Johnson et al. (2011) Plant Cell 23, 1468-1479; Gortal et al. (2012) Plant Journal 69, 289-301; Belgio et al. (2015) Plant Cell & Environment doi:10.1111/pce.12528).

The interaction between various adaptation strategies of the photosynthetic light harvesting system to environmental conditions from light starved to light stressed (Ruban and Johnson, (2008) Photosynth. Res. 99, 173-183; Ruban (2015) Journal of Experimental Botany 66, 7-23).

Photosynthesis in cytoplasmic hybrids of Solanaceae family: nucleo-plastide interactions (Zubko et al., (2001) Plant Journal, 25, 627-639).

The protective effectiveness of NPQ (Ruban and Belgio (2014) Phil. Trans. Royal Society of London B 369, 20130222; Ware et al. (2014) Journal of Experimental Botany doi10.1093/jxb/eru477; Giovagnetti et al. (2015) Photosynth. Res. doi10.1007/s11120-015-0087-z; Ware et al. (2015) Photosynth. Res. doi10.1007/s11120-015-0102-4)

Interests and expertise (Subject groups)

Grants awarded

Quantifying plant adaptations to light environment.

Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards

Dates: May 2015 - Apr 2020

Value: £32,500