The reaction centre-light harvesting 1 (RC-LH1) core complex is indispensable for anoxygenic photosynthesis. In the purple bacterium Rhodobacter (Rba.) sphaeroides RC-LH1 is produced both as a monomer in which 14 LH1 subunits form a C-shaped antenna around one RC, and as a dimer, where 28 LH1 subunits form an S-shaped antenna surrounding two RCs. Alongside the five RC and LH1 subunits, an additional polypeptide known as PufX provides an interface for dimerization and also prevents LH1 ring closure, introducing a channel for quinone exchange that is essential for photoheterotrophic growth. Structures of Rba. sphaeroides RC-LH1 complexes revealed several new components; protein-Y, which helps to form the quinone channel; protein-Z, of unknown function and seemingly unique to dimers; and a tightly bound sulfoquinovosyl diacylglycerol (SQDG) lipid that interacts with two PufX arginine residues. This lipid lies at the dimer interface alongside weak density for a second molecule, previously proposed to be an ornithine lipid. In this work we have generated strains of Rba.sphaeroides lacking protein-Y, protein-Z, SQDG or ornithine lipids to assess the roles of these previously unknown components in the assembly and activity of RC-LH1. We show that whilst the removal of either protein-Y, protein-Z or ornithine lipids has only subtle effects, SQDG is essential for the formation of RC-LH1 dimers but its absence has no functional effect on the monomeric complex.

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