This research addresses one of the most compelling issues in the field of photosynthesis, namely, the role of the accessory chlorophyll molecules in primary charge separation. Using a combination of empirical and computational methods, we demonstrate that the primary acceptor of photosystem (PS) I is a dimer of accessory and secondary chlorophyll molecules, Chl2A and Chl3A, with an asymmetric electron charge density distribution. The incorporation of highly coupled donors and acceptors in PS I allows for extensive delocalization that prolongs the lifetime of the charge-separated state, providing for high quantum efficiency. The discovery of this motif has widespread implications ranging from the evolution of naturally occurring reaction centers to the development of a new generation of highly efficient artificial photosynthetic systems.
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