Photosynthetic water oxidation is catalyzed by the Mn4CaO5 cluster of photosystem II (PSII) with linear progression through five S-state intermediates (S0 to S4). To reveal the mechanism of water oxidation, we analyzed structures of PSII in the S1, S2, and S3 states by x-ray free-electron laser serial crystallography. No insertion of water was found in S2, but flipping of D1 Glu189 upon transition to S3 leads to the opening of a water channel and provides a space for incorporation of an additional oxygen ligand, resulting in an open cubane Mn4CaO6 cluster with an oxyl/oxo bridge. Structural changes of PSII between the different S states reve cooperative action of substrate water access, proton release, and dioxygen formation in photosynthetic water oxidation.
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