Chlorophylls, Symmetry, Chirality, and Photosynthesis

Mathias O. Senge, Aoife A. Ryan, Kristie A. Letchford, Stuart A. MacGowan, Tamara Mielke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

173 Citations (Scopus)


Chlorophylls are a fundamental class of tetrapyrroles and function as the central reaction center, accessory and photoprotective pigments in photosynthesis. Their unique individual photochemical properties are a consequence of the tetrapyrrole macrocycle, the structural chemistry and coordination behavior of the phytochlorin system, and specific substituent pattern. They achieve their full potential in solar energy conversion by working in concert in highly complex, supramolecular structures such as the reaction centers and light-harvesting complexes of photobiology. The biochemical function of these structures depends on the controlled interplay of structural and functional principles of the apoprotein and pigment cofactors. Chlorophylls and bacteriochlorophylls are optically active molecules with several chiral centers, which are necessary for their natural biological function and the assembly of their supramolecular complexes. However, in many cases the exact role of chromophore stereochemistry in the biological context is unknown. This review gives an overview of chlorophyll research in terms of basic function, biosynthesis and their functional and structural role in photosynthesis. It highlights aspects of chirality and symmetry of chlorophylls to elicit further interest in their role in nature
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)781-843
Number of pages62
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2014


  • Chlorophylls
  • Tetrapyrroles
  • Porphyrinoids
  • Photosynthesis
  • Chirality
  • Symmetry
  • Solar energy conversion


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