A Cornell University study published in Science Advances describes a
breakthrough in the quest to improve photosynthesis in certain crops, a
step toward adapting plants to climate changesand increasing yields to
feed the world's projected 9 billion population by 2050.
Senior author Maureen Hanson and first author Myat Lin developed a
computational technique to predict favorablegene sequencesthat make
Rubisco, the key plant enzyme for photosynthesis. The technique
identified promising candidate enzymes that could be engineered into
modern crops and, ultimately, make photosynthesis more efficient and
increase crop yields. The technique relied on evolutionary history,
where researchers predicted Rubisco genes from 20-30 million years ago.
By resurrecting ancient Rubisco, early results show promise for the
development of faster, more efficient Rubisco enzymes to incorporate
into crops and help them adapt to hot, dry future conditions.
The study describes predictions of 98 Rubisco enzymes at key moments in
the evolutionary history of plants in the Solanaceae family, which
include tomato, pepper, potato,eggplant, and tobacco. Researchers used
tobacco for their studies of Rubisco. Lin reconstructed a phylogeny of
Rubisco using Solanaceae plants and then applied an experimental system
that uses/E. coli/bacteria to test the efficacy of different versions of
Rubisco. The team found that ancient Rubisco enzymes predicted from
modern-day Solanaceae plants showed real promise for being more efficient.
If this method proves successful, the identified efficient Rubisco
sequences could be transferred into crops such as tomatoes, soybeans,
Scientists resurrect ancient enzymes to improve photosynthesis | Cornell