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Blue-green algae promises to help boost food crop yields

Blue-green algae promises to help boost food crop yields

Carboxysomes consist of many thousands of polypeptides, arranged in an icosahedral structure.

Full article issued by The Australian National University (ANU) and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis.

Scientists at the ANU in collaboration with members of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis have engineered tiny carbon-capturing engines from cyanobacteria—commonly known as blue-green algae—by inserting small compartments called carboxysomes from the cyanobacteria into plants, in a breakthrough that promises to help boost the yields of important food crops such as wheat, cowpeas and cassava.

The Rubisco enzyme inside cyanobacteria can capture carbon dioxide and generate sugars about three times faster than the Rubisco found in plants, and computer models have shown that upgrading plant photosynthesis to use this mechanism will lead to a dramatic increase in plant growth and yield. 

The discovery, which the researchers say has taken place much more quickly than expected, is a major leap forward in improving the way crops convert carbon dioxide, water and sunlight into energy—a process called photosynthesis, which is one of the main limitations to crop yield.

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