Dr Alistair McCormick, University of Edinburgh
"Progress and current challenges in engineering algal carbon concentrating mechanisms into higher plants"
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 plants, including critical staple crops. Unlike C3 plants, many photosynthetic organisms have evolved CO2-concentrating mechanisms (CCMs) that actively increase CO2concentrations near the primary carboxylase enzyme, Rubisco, thus enhancing the rate of CO2 assimilation and suppressing photorespiration. Eukaryotic microalgae possess highly efficient biophysical CCMs that involve HCO3- pumps to elevate CO2 in the chloroplast and mechanisms to constrain CO2 leakage, and the aggregation of Rubisco in a fascinating organelle called the pyrenoid. Our lab is working toward building a biophysical CCM in C3 plants based on the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. I will discuss current work and challenges to express key components of the algal CCM and modify Rubisco in the model plant Arabidopsis, with the goal of enhancing photosynthesis and potentially improving productivity in C3 crops.