Photosynthesis is one of evolution's great success stories. Plants, algae and bacteria capture light energy from the sun and transform it into chemical energy.
Can science improve it? Perhaps. While genetic modification is protested by anti-science groups, no one dislikes photosynthesis. And improving the photosynthetic rate is one strategy to improve plant productivity, which can be important for future food production.
Scientists have used synthetic biology approaches to demonstrate for the first time that micro-compartments made up of proteins originating in bacteria can be assembled in the chloroplasts of flowering plants. Assembling a compartment inside chloroplasts of flowering plants has the potential to improve the efficiency of photosynthesis.
Plants could be made more efficient at fixing carbon dioxide from the air into molecules that can be used by the plant for growth.
Nicotiana benthamiana is a model plant species related to tobacco and routinely used in research. Cyanobacteria have a natural CO2 concentration mechanism that is encapsulated in microcompartments called the carboxysome.
Green Microcompartments in Red Chloroplasts. Credit: Rothamsted Research
Dr. Alessandro Occhialini, Rothamsted Research scientist, says, "I was thrilled to see small round or oval bodies in chloroplasts several days after I infiltrated bacterial genes into the leaves."
In order to engineer the bacterial genes to work properly in plants, postdoctoral fellow Dr. Myat Lin at Cornell used recombinant DNA methods to connect the bacterial DNA to plant DNA sequences so that several bacterial proteins could be produced simultaneously in chloroplasts and spontaneously assemble into small compartments. Lin commented, "Being a part of a project with such a big goal to improve photosynthesis has been tremendously rewarding. While more work is ahead, we certainly have a very promising start."
Professor Maureen Hanson, lead scientist at Cornell University said, "We are delighted with the encouraging results from our collaboration with the Rothamsted Research group, whose expertise in photosynthesis and electron microscopy complements our capabilities in genetic engineering."
Professor Martin Parry, lead scientist at Rothamsted Research, said, "We are truly excited about the findings of this study. Improving photosynthetic rate in crop plants has been scientifically challenging and the developments in the areas of synthetic biology and metabolic engineering enable us to make significant progress. It is important that we explore all available tools to us in order to ensure food and fuel security in the future."
Citation: Myat T. Lin, Alessandro Occhialini, John P. Andralojc, Jean Devonshire, Kevin M. Hines, Martin A. J. Parry, Maureen R. Hanson, 'β-carboxysomal proteins assemble into highly organized structures in Nicotiana chloroplasts', The Plant Journal DOI: 10.1111/tpj.12536
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Researchers Created A Laser Bullet To See What It Would Look Like - And Here It Is
- Great Earthquakes Doubled In The Most Recent 10 Year Period - What That Means
- What Americans Fear Most Isn't Ebola Or Terrorism, It's...
- ECFA Workshop: Planning For The High Luminosity LHC
- The Comets Of Beta Pictoris
- Slavery In America: Back In The Headlines
- As The Weather Changes, So Do Beliefs About Climate Change
- "It would be very useful, if also deeply depressing, to collect all of the statements made by prominent..."
- "Trying to explain this to people can be infuriating. It really is a few of us arguing against..."
- "Hi Valerie, thanks for writing.If you look up papers on existential dread, you should find some..."
- "If journal articles like this one would reference the science and the data instead of the politics..."
- "people, the claim that: 1 you do not believe in god, 2 you exist QED atheists exist is fatuous..."
- National Wildlife Refuge System bans on GMOs and neonics lack transparency, scientific rationale
- Want better sperm? Eat more pesticides
- Beyond universal donors, some people are programed with no blood type at all
- Anti-conventional ag movement spurs Big Ag to look to organic pesticides
- Can people really inherit memories?
- An end to fat shaming? The 50 year DNA mystery of metabolic dysfunction may soon be solved