Dr Matt Johnson
Reader in Biochemistry
Tel: 0114 222 4418
The Johnson Lab is focused on photosynthesis the process that uses solar energy to transform water and carbon dioxide into the energy we consume and the oxygen we breathe. Research within my group falls into three overlapping areas:
Thylakoid membrane structure and dynamics
The chloroplast thylakoid membrane is the site for the initial steps of photosynthesis that convert solar energy into chemical energy, ultimately powering almost all life on earth. The heterogeneous distribution of protein complexes within the membrane gives rise to an intricate three-dimensional structure that is nonetheless extremely dynamic on a timescale of seconds to minutes. These dynamics form the basis for the regulation of photosynthesis, and therefore the adaptability of plants to different environments. We use a multi-faceted approach that includes atomic force, electron and fluorescence microscopies in combination with biochemistry and spectroscopy to probe these organizational details and understand their functional relevance.
Single molecule electron transfer
Small diffusible redox proteins play a ubiquitous role in facilitating electron transfer (ET) in respiration and photosynthesis by shuttling electrons between membrane bound complexes in a redox-dependent manner. The association of such small redox carrier proteins with their larger membrane-bound partners must be highly specific, yet also readily reversible in order to sustain rapid ET and turnover on microsecond/millisecond timescales. New developments in force spectroscopy provide the first opportunity to quantify the dynamic forces that sustain these transient interactions and to understand their temporal evolution leading to dissociation. We have adapted a new atomic force microscopy (AFM) technique PeakForce-QNM (PF-QNM), and have used it to directly monitor these intermolecular interactions at the single molecule level, with sub-millisecond time resolution, and with picoNewton force resolution.
Photoprotective energy dissipation
In photosynthesis, light-harvesting complexes (LHCs) capture solar energy and feed it to the downstream molecular machinery. However, when light absorption exceeds the capacity for utilization, the excess energy can cause damage. Thus, LHCs have evolved a feedback loop that triggers photoprotective energy dissipation. The critical importance of photoprotection for plant fitness has been demonstrated, as well as its impact on crop yields. However, the mechanisms of photoprotection ― from fast chemical reactions of molecules to slow conformational changes of proteins ― have not yet been resolved. We are working with partners at MIT and at Okazaki in Japan to study the protein and pigment dynamics that bring about the switch between the photoprotective and light harvesting states.
See my website for more details about my research group.
Plant science, photosynthesis, thylakoid membranes, high-resolution microscopy
Level 3 Modules
MBB304 Plant Biotechnology
Level 2 Modules
MBB266 Biostructures, Energetics and Synthesis (Module Coordinator)
Level 1 Modules
Honours and Distinctions
- Lishchik A, Vasilev C, Johnson M, Hunter N, Törmä P & Leggett GJ (2019) Turning the Challenge of Quantum Biology On its Head Biological Control of Quantum Optical Systems. Faraday Discussions. View this article in WRRO
- Adams PG, Vasilev C, Hunter CN & Johnson MP (2018) Correlated fluorescence quenching and topographic mapping of Light-Harvesting Complex II within surface-assembled aggregates and lipid bilayers. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Bioenergetics, 1859(10), 1075-1085. View this article in WRRO
- Wood WHJ, MacGregor-Chatwin C, Barnett SFH, Mayneord GE, Huang X, Hobbs JK, Hunter CN & Johnson MP (2018) Author Correction: Dynamic thylakoid stacking regulates the balance between linear and cyclic photosynthetic electron transfer. Nature Plants, 4(6), 391-391. View this article in WRRO
- Johnson MP (2018) Metabolic regulation of photosynthetic membrane structure tunes electron transfer function.. Biochemical Journal, 475(7), 1225-1233. View this article in WRRO
- Huete-Ortega M, Okurowska K, Kapoore RV, Johnson MP, Gilmour DJ & Vaidyanathan S (2018) Effect of ammonium and high light intensity on the accumulation of lipids in Nannochloropsis oceanica (CCAP 849/10) and Phaeodactylum tricornutum (CCAP 1055/1). Biotechnology for Biofuels, 11(1), 60-60. View this article in WRRO
- Johnson M, Wood WHJ, MacGregor-Chatwin C, Barnett S, Mayneord G, Huang X, Hobbs J & Hunter CN (2018) Dynamic thylakoid stacking regulates the balance between linear and cyclic photosynthetic electron transfer. Nature Plants, 4, 116-127. View this article in WRRO
- Snellenburg JJ, Johnson MP, Ruban AV, van Grondelle R & van Stokkum IHM (2017) A four state parametric model for the kinetics of the non-photochemical quenching in Photosystem II. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Bioenergetics, 1858(10), 854-864.
- Smith AJ, Laugks T, Kleindiek S, Albert S, Wood WHJ, Johnson MP, Engel BD, Baumeister W, Plitzko JM & Schaffer M (2017) Cryo-FIB Lift-out Sample Preparation Using a Novel Cryo-gripper Tool. Microscopy and Microanalysis, 23(S1), 844-845.
- Johnson MP (2016) Photosynthesis. Essays In Biochemistry, 60(3), 255-273. View this article in WRRO
- Stone JE, Sener M, Vandivort KL, Barragan A, Singharoy A, Teo I, Ribeiro JV, Isralewitz B, Liu B, Goh BC , Phillips JC et al (2015) Atomic detail visualization of photosynthetic membranes with GPU-accelerated ray tracing. Parallel Computing, 55, 17-27. View this article in WRRO
- Benson SL, Maheswaran P, Ware MA, Hunter CN, Horton P, Jansson S, Ruban AV & Johnson MP (2015) An intact light harvesting complex I antenna system is required for complete state transitions in Arabidopsis. Nature Plants, 1(12), 15176. View this article in WRRO
- Ruban AV & Johnson MP (2015) Visualizing the dynamic structure of the plant photosynthetic membrane. Nature Plants, 1(11), nplants2015161.
- Patole S, Vasilev C, El-Zubir O, Wang L, Johnson MP, Cadby AJ, Leggett GJ & Hunter CN (2015) Interference lithographic nanopatterning of plant and bacterial light-harvesting complexes on gold substrates. Interface Focus, 5(4). View this article in WRRO
- Vasilev C, Johnson MP, Gonzales E, Wang L, Ruban AV, Montano G, Cadby AJ & Hunter CN (2014) Reversible switching between nonquenched and quenched states in nanoscale linear arrays of plant light-harvesting antenna complexes.. Langmuir, 30(28), 8481-8490.
- Johnson M, Vasilev C, Olsen JD & Hunter CN (2014) Integration of energy and electron transfer reactions in plant thylakoids. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Bioenergetics, 1837, e122.
- Johnson MP, Vasilev C, Olsen JD & Hunter CN (2014) Nanodomains of Cytochrome b6f and Photosystem II Complexes in Spinach Grana Thylakoid Membranes. The Plant Cell, 26(7), 3051-3061. View this article in WRRO
- Krüger TPJ, Ilioaia C, van Grondelle R, Johnson MP & Ruban AV (2014) Disentangling the low-energy states of the major light-harvesting complex of plants and their role in photoprotection. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Bioenergetics.
- Cousins AB, Johnson M & Leakey ADB (2014) Photosynthesis and the environment. Photosynthesis Research, 119(1-2), 1-2.
- Kruger TPJ, Ilioaia C, Johnson MP, Belgio E, Horton P, Ruban AV & van Grondelle R (2013) The Specificity of Controlled Protein Disorder in the Photoprotection of Plants. BIOPHYSICAL JOURNAL, 105(4), 1018-1026.
- Ilioaia C, Duffy CDP, Johnson MP & Ruban AV (2013) Changes in the energy transfer pathways within photosystem II antenna induced by xanthophyll cycle activity. Journal of Physical Chemistry B, 117(19), 5841-5847.
- Johnson MP & Ruban AV (2013) Rethinking the existence of a steady-state Δψ component of the proton motive force across plant thylakoid membranes. Photosynthesis Research, 1-10. View this article in WRRO
- Rutkauskas D, Chmeliov J, Johnson M, Ruban A & Valkunas L (2012) Exciton annihilation as a probe of the light-harvesting antenna transition into the photoprotective mode. Chemical Physics, 404, 123-128.
- Johnson MP, Zia A & Ruban AV (2012) Elevated ΔpH restores rapidly reversible photoprotective energy dissipation in Arabidopsis chloroplasts deficient in lutein and xanthophyll cycle activity. Planta, 235(1), 193-204.
- Belgio E, Johnson MP, Jurić S & Ruban AV (2012) Higher plant photosystem II light-harvesting antenna, not the reaction center, determines the excited-state lifetime - Both the maximum and the nonphotochemically quenched. Biophysical Journal, 102(12), 2761-2771.
- Krüger TPJ, Ilioaia C, Johnson MP, Ruban AV, Papagiannakis E, Horton P & Van Grondelle R (2012) Controlled disorder in plant light-harvesting complex II explains its photoprotective role. Biophysical Journal, 102(11), 2669-2676.
- Ruban AV, Johnson MP & Duffy CDP (2011) Natural light harvesting : principles and environmental trends. Energy & Environmental Science, 4(5), 1643-1650.
- Goral TK, Johnson MP, Duffy CDP, Brain APR, Ruban AV & Mullineaux CW (2011) Light-harvesting antenna composition controls the macrostructure and dynamics of thylakoid membranes in Arabidopsis. Plant Journal.
- Johnson MP, Goral TK, Duffy CDP, Brain APR, Mullineaux CW & Ruban AV (2011) Photoprotective energy dissipation involves the reorganization of photosystem II light-harvesting complexes in the grana membranes of spinach chloroplasts. Plant Cell, 23(4), 1468-1479.
- Johnson MP, Brain APR & Ruban AV (2011) Changes in thylakoid membrane thickness associated with the reorganization of photosystem II light harvesting complexes during photoprotective energy dissipation. Plant Signaling and Behavior, 6(9), 1386-1390.
- Ilioaia C, Johnson MP, Liao PN, Pascal AA, Van Grondelle R, Walla PJ, Ruban AV & Robert B (2011) Photoprotection in plants involves a change in lutein 1 binding domain in the major light-harvesting complex of photosystem II. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 286(31), 27247-27254.
- Ilioaia C, Johnson MP, Duffy CDP, Pascal AA, Van Grondelle R, Robert B & Ruban AV (2011) Origin of absorption changes associated with photoprotective energy dissipation in the absence of zeaxanthin. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 286(1), 91-98.
- Stadnichuk IN, Bulychev AA, Lukashev EP, Sinetova MP, Khristin MS, Johnson MP & Ruban AV (2011) Far-red light-regulated efficient energy transfer from phycobilisomes to photosystem i in the red microalga Galdieria sulphuraria and photosystems-related heterogeneity of phycobilisome population. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Bioenergetics, 1807(2), 227-235.
- Ruban AV, Johnson MP & Duffy CDP (2011) The photoprotective molecular switch in the photosystem II antenna. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Bioenergetics.
- Zia A, Johnson MP & Ruban AV (2011) Acclimation- and mutation-induced enhancement of PsbS levels affects the kinetics of non-photochemical quenching in Arabidopsis thaliana. Planta, 233(6), 1253-1264.
- Johnson MP & Ruban AV (2011) Restoration of rapidly reversible photoprotective energy dissipation in the absence of PsbS protein by enhanced ΔpH. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 286(22), 19973-19981.
- Goral TK, Johnson MP, Brain APR, Kirchhoff H, Ruban AV & Mullineaux CW (2010) Visualising the mobility and distribution of chlorophyll-proteins in higher plant thylakoid membranes: effects of photoinhibition and protein phosphorylation. The Plant Journal.
- Goral TK, Johnson MP, Brain APR, Kirchhoff H, Ruban AV & Mullineaux CW (2010) Visualizing the mobility and distribution of chlorophyll proteins in higher plant thylakoid membranes: effects of photoinhibition and protein phosphorylation. The Plant Journal, 62(6), 948-959.
- Goral TK, Johnson MP, Brain APR, Kirchhoff H, Ruban AV & Mullineaux CW (2010) Visualizing the mobility and distribution of chlorophyll proteins in higher plant thylakoid membranes: Effects of photoinhibition and protein phosphorylation. Plant Journal, 62(6), 948-959.
- Duffy CDP, Johnson MP, MacErnis M, Valkunas L, Barford W & Ruban AV (2010) A theoretical investigation of the photophysical consequences of major plant light-harvesting complex aggregation within the photosynthetic membrane. Journal of Physical Chemistry B, 114(46), 15244-15253.
- Ruban AV & Johnson MP (2010) Xanthophylls as modulators of membrane protein function. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, 504(1), 78-85.
- Johnson MP & Ruban AV (2010) Arabidopsis plants lacking PsbS protein possess photoprotective energy dissipation.. Plant J, 61(2), 283-289.
- Johnson MP, Zia A, Horton P & Ruban AV (2010) Effect of xanthophyll composition on the chlorophyll excited state lifetime in plant leaves and isolated LHCII. Chemical Physics, 373(1-2), 23-32.
- Johnson MP & Ruban AV (2009) Photoprotective energy dissipation in higher plants involves alteration of the excited state energy of the emitting chlorophyll(s) in the light harvesting antenna II (LHCII). Journal of Biological Chemistry, 284(35), 23592-23601.
- Ruban AV & Johnson MP (2009) Dynamics of higher plant photosystem cross-section associated with state transitions. Photosynthesis Research, 99(3), 173-183.
- Damkjær JT, Kereïche S, Johnson MP, Kovacs L, Kiss AZ, Boekema EJ, Ruban AV, Horton P & Jansson S (2009) The photosystem II light-harvesting protein Lhcb3 affects the macrostructure of photosystem II and the rate of state transitions in Arabidopsis. Plant Cell, 21(10), 3245-3256.
- Johnson MP, Pérez-Bueno ML, Zia A, Horton P & Ruban AV (2009) The zeaxanthin-independent and zeaxanthin-dependent qE components of nonphotochemical quenching involve common conformational changes within the photosystem II antenna in Arabidopsis. Plant Physiology, 149(2), 1061-1075.
- Johnson MP, Davison PA, Ruban AV & Horton P (2008) The xanthophyll cycle pool size controls the kinetics of non-photochemical quenching in Arabidopsis thaliana.. FEBS Lett, 582(2), 262-266.
- Ilioaia C, Johnson MP, Horton P & Ruban AV (2008) Induction of efficient energy dissipation in the isolated light-harvesting complex of photosystem II in the absence of protein aggregation. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 283(43), 29505-29512.
- Pérez-Bueno ML, Johnson MP, Zia A, Ruban AV & Horton P (2008) The Lhcb protein and xanthophyll composition of the light harvesting antenna controls the ΔpH-dependency of non-photochemical quenching in Arabidopsis thaliana. FEBS Letters, 582(10), 1477-1482.
- Horton P, Johnson MP, Perez-Bueno ML, Kiss AZ & Ruban AV (2008) Photosynthetic acclimation: Does the dynamic structure and macro-organisation of photosystem II in higher plant grana membranes regulate light harvesting states?. FEBS Journal, 275(6), 1069-1079.
- Johnson MP, Havaux M, Triantaphylidès C, Ksas B, Pascal AA, Robert B, Davison PA, Ruban AV & Horton P (2007) Elevated zeaxanthin bound to oligomeric LHCII enhances the resistance of Arabidopsis to photooxidative stress by a lipid-protective, antioxidant mechanism.. J Biol Chem, 282(31), 22605-22618.
- Johnson M, Havaux M, Triantaphylides C, Ksas B, Pascal A, Robert B, Davison P, Ruban A & Horton P (2007) Elevated zeaxanthin bound to oligomeric LHCII enhances the resistance of Arabidopsis to photo-oxidative stress by a lipid-protective, anti-oxidant mechanism. PHOTOSYNTH RES, 91(2-3), 319-319.
Conference proceedings papers
- Adams PG, Vasilev C, Hunter CN & Johnson MP (2017) Light-Harvesting Complex II in Controlled Architectures: Visualizing Changes in Fluorescence Lifetimes. Biophysical Journal, Vol. 112(3) (pp 441a)
- Adams PG, Vasilev C, Collins AM, Montaño GA, Hunter CN & Johnson MP (2016) Redesigning Photosynthetic Membranes: Development of Bio-Inspired Photonic Nanomaterials. Biophysical Journal, Vol. 110(3) (pp 19a)