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A Biological Bypass for 26% Increase in Photosynthesis!

Guided by the crafty processes of evolution, Dr. Safee Ullah Chaudhary along with a team of researchers discovered a way to reroute plant processes that have resulted in a net 26% increase in photosynthesis.

C3 is actually one of a handful of mechanisms through which plants make their food. All plants that use this mechanism are called C3 plants for example rice, cotton and barley.  These plants cleverly convert carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into food using an important enzyme called Rubisco; without Rubisco, these plants would not be able to survive! However, in a plot twist of molecular proportions, in the presence of Oxygen, Rubisco also produces a toxic compound that needs to be detoxified. This detoxification process, called photorespiration, takes up precious energy and resources – and it is this photorespiration process that Dr. Safee Ullah and his team were keen to bypass, saving C3 plants some extra fatigue!

Could there be an example in nature that uses a more efficient pathway, instead of photorespiration? Turns out, there is! Enter the world of Cyanobacteria; oxygen producing machines that are thought to be responsible for single-handedly generating much of the oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere! Cyanobacteria have been around on Earth for at least the past 3.5 billion years! They have survived all extinction periods and have learnt to thrive on the planet’s ever evolving habitat. When studied closely, the research team discovered that cyanobacteria exercise a glycolate decarboxylation bypass model, which when integrated into C3 model, produces 10% increase in photosynthesis. However, if more carbon dioxide and inorganic phosphates are pumped into the system, the increase in photosynthesis goes up to 26%! Truly remarkable!

We congratulate Dr. Safee Ullah and his team on this paper, and we remain optimistic on its future prospects of implementation in our cash crop industry.

Check out this link to read the associated paper.

Khurshid, G., Abbassi, A.Z., Khalid, M.F. et al. A cyanobacterial photorespiratory bypass model to enhance photosynthesis by rerouting photorespiratory pathway in C3 plants. Sci Rep 10, 20879 (2020).