Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

April 20, 2022

Improving Photosynthesis efficiency by resurrecting ancient enzymes in Modern Plants

Filed under: Science Related — Suramya @ 1:23 AM

Climate change is something that is going to impact us in a major way specially in our ability to produce food as the plants and animals we have right now are not really suited for an environment that is a lot hotter and has more pollutants & CO2 in the atmosphere. Scientists have been exploring modifying the plants to enable them to thrive in the new environment and increase their food productivity (since the world population is growing at a massive rate) and Maureen Hanson & Myat Lin from the Cornell University have made a breakthrough in the effort to improve the efficiency of Photosynthesis in plants.

They developed a computational technique to predict favorable gene sequences to make Rubisco that fixes atmospheric CO2 into organic compounds. Using the evolutionary history the process predicted how the genes would have been 20-30 million years ago. These were then tested using an experimental system developed in Hanson’s lab (Nature Plants Paper) that employs E. coli bacteria to test the efficacy of the different versions Rubisco. Using this method allowed the researchers to evaluate the findings a lot faster than the traditional method which would have taken months to verify instead of days.

Plants and photosynthetic organisms have a remarkably inefficient enzyme named Rubisco that fixes atmospheric CO2 into organic compounds. Understanding how Rubisco has evolved in response to past climate change is important for attempts to adjust plants to future conditions. In this study, we developed a computational workflow to assemble de novo both large and small subunits of Rubisco enzymes from transcriptomics data. Next, we predicted sequences for ancestral Rubiscos of the (nightshade) family Solanaceae and characterized their kinetics after coexpressing them in Escherichia coli. Predicted ancestors of C3 Rubiscos were identified that have superior kinetics and excellent potential to help plants adapt to anthropogenic climate change. Our findings also advance understanding of the evolution of Rubisco’s catalytic traits.

Their findings which have been published in Science Advances show that the ancient Rubisco enzymes predicted showed real promise for being more efficient. The next step is to replace the genes in existing tobacco plants with their ancient counterparts and then measure how the photosynthesis efficiency changes in the modified plant. If things look good then we can start testing against food crops such as tomatoes, soybeans and rice.

But that is going to take time as these things can’t be rushed and we need to ensure there are no harmful side effects of this change. That being said, it is a great breakthrough and I am going to be watching this space for more advances.

Paper: Improving the efficiency of Rubisco by resurrecting its ancestors in the family Solanaceae
Article: Scientists resurrect ancient enzymes to improve photosynthesis

– Suramya

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