The ultimate aim of the ambitious (Combining Algal and Plant Photosynthesis) CAPP project is to introduce elements of algal photosynthetic systems into higher plants to increase photosynthetic efficiencies and yield. If successful, this may help pave the way for the production of "super-efficient" crop plants in the future.

The CAPP project work addresses one of the most pressing challenges for Plant Science - meeting the food demands of the rising global population. 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 like wheat and rice. 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. In most eukaryotic algae, Rubisco is condensed within a liquid-liquid phase separated microcompartment known as the pyrenoid, in association with a CCM that improves photosynthetic operating efficiency under conditions of low inorganic carbon. Enhancing photosynthesis in higher plants by introducing an algal CO2-concentrating mechanism is predicted to significantly increase the efficiency of photosynthetic CO2 uptake and plant productivity.

Image: Courtesy of Dr Alistair McCormick

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