Near-atomic-resolution structure of J-aggregated helical light-harvesting nanotubes.

Arundhati P Deshmukh, Weili Zheng, Chern Chuang, Austin D Bailey, Jillian A Williams, Ellen M Sletten, Edward H Egelman, Justin R Caram


Cryo-electron microscopy has delivered a resolution revolution for biological self-assemblies, yet only a handful of structures have been solved for synthetic supramolecular materials. Particularly for chromophore supramolecular aggregates, high-resolution structures are necessary for understanding and modulating the long-range excitonic coupling. Here, we present a 3.3 Å structure of prototypical biomimetic light-harvesting nanotubes derived from an amphiphilic cyanine dye (C8S3-Cl). Helical 3D reconstruction directly visualizes the chromophore packing that controls the excitonic properties. Our structure clearly shows a brick layer arrangement, revising the previously hypothesized herringbone arrangement. Furthermore, we identify a new non-biological supramolecular motif-interlocking sulfonates-that may be responsible for the slip-stacked packing and J-aggregate nature of the light-harvesting nanotubes. This work shows how independently obtained native-state structures complement photophysical measurements and will enable accurate understanding of (excitonic) structure-function properties, informing materials design for light-harvesting chromophore aggregates.