In one of the projects being funded by this round of grants, Professor Nicholas Smirnoff from the University of Exeter is trying to improve a reaction driven by the enzyme Rubisco widely recognised as a bottleneck in the photosynthetic pathway. He wants to see whether making the cell environment richer in carbon dioxide will allow Rubisco to work more efficiently, in a complementary approach to the Ideas Lab projects on the same topic. Working with the photosynthetic bacterium Synechocystis, the team plan to test this hypothesis by linking Rubisco to another enzyme that concentrates CO2. If successful, the idea is to improve Rubisco activity in a similar manner in a range of crops including rice, wheat, potatoes and pulses.
In another project, at the University of Manchester, Dr Giles Johnson is investigating the role of fumaric acid as a temporary carbon store (in addition to starch) in order to prevent the build up of sugar molecules in the leaf that would otherwise inhibit photosynthesis.
Professor Janet Allen, BBSRC Director of Research, said "Improving photosynthesis is a considerable challenge so it is essential that we make the most of expertise in both the UK and the USA. We are encouraging a collaborative approach by holding regular workshops with researchers from all nine projects, in both the UK and US, so that they work together from an early stage.
"This research is ambitious, but if the scientists we are supporting can achieve their aims it will be a profound achievement."
|Contact: Mike Davies|
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council