We first describe the history and methods of membrane protein crystallization, and show how the structure of the photosynthetic reaction centre from the purple bacterium Rhodopseudomonas viridis was solved. The structure of this membrane protein complex is correlated with its function as a light-driven electron pump across the photosynthetic membrane. Finally we draw conclusions on the structure of the photosystem II reaction centre from plants and discuss the aspects of membrane protein structure.

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Published in Les Prix Nobel—The Nobel Prizes 1988 (Nobel Foundation, Stockholm, 1989) and republished here with the permission of the Nobel Foundation the copyright holders.