Meeting the food demands of the rising global population is one of the most pressing challenges for Plant Science. Much research is focused on overcoming the limitations of C3 photosynthesis, which is the most common form of CO2 assimilation in higher plants, including critical staple crops. Unlike C3 plants, many photosynthetic organisms have evolved CO2-concentrating mechanisms (CCMs) that actively increase CO2 concentrations near the primary carboxylase enzyme, Rubisco, thus enhancing the rate of CO2 assimilation and suppressing photorespiration. Eukaryotic microalgae, such as Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, possess highly efficient biophysical CCMs that utilise HCO3- pumps to elevate CO2 in the chloroplast and mechanisms to constrain CO2 leakage. Furthermore, the chloroplastic Rubisco pool is condensed into a fascinating liquid-liquid, phase-separated compartment called the pyrenoid. A crucial component of the Chlamydomonas CCM is EPYC1, an intrinsically disordered linker protein required for Rubisco condensation and CCM activity. Condensation is triggered by the binding of EPYC1 to the small subunit of Rubisco, and in vitro studies have shown that EPYC1 can phase separate with Rubisco from a higher plant if the Rubisco complex carries a Chlamydomonas small subunit. Here I will discuss recent work to phase separate EPYC1 and Rubisco in a plant chloroplast and our ongoing efforts to engineer a functional algal CCM into a higher plant.
Alistair is a Reader in Plant Molecular Physiology and Synthetic Biology and current Director of Edinburgh Plant Science. Alistair holds an MSc from the University of Stellenbosch and a PhD from the University of KwaZulu Natal, which he gained while at the South African Sugarcane Research Institute. He worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge and John Innes Centre before joining Edinburgh in October 2013 as a Chancellor’s Fellow. Alistair's research interests have centred around photosynthesis and how it can be manipulated to produce novel products or improve plant productivity.
For details of his research and recent publication, please visit HERE
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