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?
- What Do EU Countries Give Up When They Opt-out Of GMO Crops? And For Whom?
- Coincidence Or Conspiracy? Investigating If Believers Really See So Much Secret Design
- Nobel Prize Validates Chinese Medicine? Nope.
- An Easy Problem
- Sex Change Hormonal Treatments Alter Brain Chemistry
- Houston Is A Lot More Tolerant Of Immigrants Than Copenhagen Is
- Prenatal BPA Exposures (Don’t) Affect Birth Weight
- "This is a bit of irony: Mother Jones, which can never be bothered with facts or truth and got sued..."
- "Great piece Steve. While the potential for suffering and death in Africa especially thanks to this..."
- "I look forward to more threats and libel from you in the very near future. It's your stock in trade..."
- "Dear Mr. Campbell: Again you spin and dissemble. It was quite clear from the many tweets between..."
- "One of us does not know what libel means (hint: It is you). Calling me a felon and a fraud is libel..."
- FDA-Approved Test for Meningitis is a Home Run
- Trends In Smoking – Chinese Men In Peril, American Women Get Better Cessation
- Counter-Point: Activists Operate By Outrage, Not Fear
- Whole Foods Recalls Organic Roquefort Cheeses After Listeria Found
- Suicide Tries Linked to Weight-Loss Surgery? Study Doesn’t Show
- Following Rules, Refreezing Thawed Meat is Safe
- Beetles provide clues about the genetic foundations of parenthood
- Teens value results of genetic tests to inform future life decisions
- Trees to power: McMaster engineers build better energy storage device
- High dose chemo & stem cell transplantation results in long-term survival for amyloid patients
- 'Blind analysis' could reduce bias in social sciences papers