Absence of Selection for Quantum Coherence in the Fenna–Matthews–Olson Complex: A Combined Evolutionary and Excitonic Study


We present a study on the evolution of the Fenna–Matthews–Olson bacterial photosynthetic pigment–protein complex. This protein complex functions as an antenna. It transports absorbed photons—excitons—to a reaction center where photosynthetic reactions initiate. The efficiency of exciton transport is therefore fundamental for the photosynthetic bacterium’s survival. We have reconstructed an ancestor of the complex to establish whether coherence in the exciton transport was selected for or optimized over time. We have also investigated the role of optimizing free energy variation upon folding in evolution. We studied whether mutations which connect the ancestor to current day species were stabilizing or destabilizing from a thermodynamic viewpoint. From this study, we established that most of these mutations were thermodynamically neutral. Furthermore, we did not see a large change in exciton transport efficiency or coherence, and thus our results predict that exciton coherence was not specifically selected for.

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Last updated on 09/02/2018