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Washington State University Molecular Plant Sciences


Associate Professor, Institute of Biological Chemistry, Ph.D. 1998, University of Munster, Germany

Helmut Kirchhoff.


Plants are integrated in a complex environment that fluctuate both randomly and periodically on very different time scales. Photosynthetic energy conversion must compensate for these changes to maintain energetic homeostasis for the cell. Failure to do this results either in reduced performance of energy transformation and consequently in a decrease in yield and fitness of plants or in severe damage by toxic photosynthetic side products that eventually lead to cell death. These potential problems are tackled by a battery of highly regulated optimization, protection, and repair mechanisms. Most of these mechanisms are realized in the photosynthetic thylakoid membranes that harbor the sophisticated, structured nanomachines responsible for biological energy conversion. Our research aims to understand the mechanisms that optimize, protect, and maintain the photosynthetic machinery on the molecular and supramolecular level. Accomplishment of these ambitious aims will lead to insights on how plants survive in an challenging environment and can help to find new strategies to solve our global food and energy problems.

Selected Publications

  1. Koochak. S. Puthiyaveetil, D. Mullendore, M. Li, H. Kirchhoff (2018) The structural and functional domains of plant thylakoid membranes. The Plant Journal in press.
  2. Kirchhoff (2018) Structure-function relationship in photosynthetic membranes: Challenges and Emerging Fields. Plant Science 266, 76-82
  3. Kirchhoff, M. Li, S. Puthiyaveetil (2017) Sublocalization of cytochrome b6f complexes in photosynthetic membranes. Trends Plants Science 22, 574-582
  4. Puthiyaveetil, B. von Oort, H. Kirchhoff (2017) Surface charge dynamics in photosynthetic membranes and its structural consequences. Nature Plants 3, 17020
  5. Zia, B.J. Walker, H.M.O. Oung, D. Charuvi, P. Jahns, A.B. Cousins, J.M. Farrant, Z. Reich, H. Kirchhoff (2016) Protection of the photosynthetic apparatus against dehydration stress in the resurrection plant Craterostigma pumilum. The Plant Journal 87, 664-680
  6. Tietz, S. Puthiyaveetil, H.M. Enlow, R. Yarbrough, M. Wood, D.A. Semchonok, T. Lowry, Z. Li, P. Jahns, E.J. Boekema, S. Lenhert, K.K. Niyogi, H. Kirchhoff (2015) Functional Implications of Photosystem II Crystal Formation in Photosynthetic Membranes. The Journal of Biological Chemistry 290, 14091-14106
  7. Charuvi, R. Nevo, E. Shimoni, L. Naveh, A. Zia, Z. Adam, J.M. Farrant, H. Kirchhoff, Z. Reich (2015) Photoprotection conferred by changes in photosynthetic protein levels and organization during dehydration of a homoiochlorophyllous resurrection plant. Plant Physiology 67, 1554-1565
  8. Puthiyaveetil, O. Tsabari, T. Lowry, S. Lenhert, R.R. Lewis, Z. Reich, H. Kirchhoff (2014) Compartmentalization of the Protein Repair Machinery in Photosynthetic Membranes. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 111, 15839-15844.
  9. Puthiyaveetil, T. Woodiwiss, R. Knoerdel, A. Zia, M. Wood, R. Hoehner, H. Kirchhoff (2014) Significance of the Photosystem II core Phosphatase PBCP for Plant Viability and Protein Repair in Thylakoid Membranes. Plant Cell Physiology 55, 1245-1254 (Special Focus Issue: Photo-oxidative stress on the chloroplasts and molecular dynamics of thylakoids).
  10. Kirchhoff (2014) Structural changes of the thylakoid membrane network induced by high-light stress in plant chloroplasts. Special issue on Changing the light environment: chloroplast signaling and response mechanisms (Editors: Cornelia Spetea, Eevi Rintamäki, Benoît Schoefs), Philosophical Transactions B 369, 20130225
  11. Kirchhoff (2013) Diffusion of molecules and macromolecules in thylakoid membranes. Special issue on Dynamics and Ultrastructure of Bioenergetic Membranes and their Components (Editors: Ziv Reich and Giorgio Lenaz), Biochimica et Biophysica Acta-Bioenergetics 1837, 495-502
  12. Puthiyaveetil, H. Kirchhoff (2013) A phosphorylation map of the photosystem II supercomplex C2S2M2. Frontiers in Plant Sciences 4, 459
  13. Kirchhoff (2013) Architectural switches in plant thylakoid membranes. Photosynthesis Research, 116, 481-487
  14. Kirchhoff (2013) Structural constraints for protein repair in plant photosynthetic membranes. Plant Signaling and Behavior, doi:pii: e23634
  15. Kirchhoff, R.M. Sharpe, M. Herbstová, R. Yarbrough, G.E. Edwards (2012) Differential mobility of pigment-protein complexes in granal and agranal thylakoid membranes of C3 and C4 plants. Plant Physiology, 161, 497-507
  16. Herbstova, S. Tietz, C. Kinzel, M.V. Turkina, H. Kirchhoff (2012) Architectural switch in plant photosynthetic membranes induced by light stress. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 109, 20130-20135
  17. Kirchhoff, C. Hall, M. Wood, M. Herbstová, O. Tsabari, R. Nevo, D. Charuvi, E. Shimoni, Z. Reich (2011) Dynamic control of protein diffusion within the granal thylakoid lumen. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 108, 20248-20253 (recommended by the Faculty of 1000)
  18. Haferkamp, W. Haase, A.A. Pascal, H. van Amerongen, H. Kirchhoff (2010) Efficient light harvesting by photosystem II requires an optimized protein packing density in grana thylakoids. Journal Biological Chemistry 285, 17020-17028
  19. Kirchhoff (2008) Significance of protein crowding, order and mobility for photosynthetic functions. Biochem. Soc.Transactions 36, 967-970
  20. Kirchhoff (2008) Molecular crowding and order in photosynthetic membranes. Trends in Plant Science 13, 201-207
  21. Kirchhoff, S. Haferkamp, J. F. Allen, D. Epstein, C. W. Mullineaux (2008) Significance of macromolecular crowding for protein diffusion in thylakoid membranes of chloroplasts. Plant Physiology 146, 1571-1578
  22. Kirchhoff, S. Lenhert, C. Büchel, L. Chi, J. Nield (2008) Probing the organization of photosystem II in photosynthetic membranes by atomic force microscopy. Biochemistry 47, 431-440
  23. Haferkamp, H. Kirchhoff (2008) Significance of molecular crowding in grana membranes of higher plants for light harvesting by photosystem II. Photosynthesis Research 95, 129-134
  24. Kirchhoff, W. Haase, S. Wegner, R. Daniellsson, R. Ackermann, P.-A. Albertsson (2007) Low-light induced array formation of photosystem II in higher plant chloroplasts. Biochemistry 46, 11169-11176
  25. Kirchhoff, W. Haase, S. Haferkamp, T. Schott, M. Borinski, U. Kubitscheck, M.Rögner (2007) Structural and functional self-organization of Photosystem II in grana thylakoids. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta-Bioenergetics 1767, 1180-1188
  26. A. Schöttler, H. Kirchhoff, E. Weis (2004) The role of plastocyanin in the adjustment of the photosynthetic electron transport to the carbon metabolism in tobacco. Plant Physiology 136, 4265-4274
  27. Kirchhoff, M. Borinski, S. Lenhert, L. Chi, C. Büchel (2004) Transversal and lateral exciton energy transfer in grana thylakoids of spinach. Biochemistry 43, 14508-14516
  28. Kirchhoff, M.A. Schöttler, E. Weis (2004) Plastocyanin redox kinetics in chloroplasts: Evidence for a dis-equilibirium in the high potential chain. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta-Bioenergetics 1659, 63-72
  29. Kirchhoff, I. Tremmel, W. Haase, U. Kubitscheck (2004) Supramolecular photosystem II organization in grana thylakoid membranes: Evidence for a structured arrangement. Biochemistry 43, 9204-9213
  30. Tremmel, H. Kirchhoff, E. Weis, G.D. Farquhar (2003) Dependence of the plastoquinone diffusion coefficient on the shape, size, density of integral thylakoid proteins. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta-Bioenergetics 1607, 97-109
  31. Kirchhoff, H. J. Hinz, J. Rösgen (2003) Aggregation and chlorophyll a fluorescence quenching of the light harvesting complex II from spinach in vitro. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta-Bioenergetics 1606, 105-116
  32. Kirchhoff, U. Mukherjee, H.J. Galla (2002) The molecular architecture of the thylakoid membrane: the lipidic diffusion space for plastoquinone. Biochemistry 41, 4872-4882
  33. Kirchhoff, S. Horstmann, E. Weis (2000) Control of the photosynthetic electron transport by PQ diffusion microdomains in thylakoids of higher plants. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta-Bioenergetics 1459 (2000), 148-168