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Synthetic biology as it relates to CAM photosynthesis: challenges and opportunities

Lookup NU author(s): Emerita Professor Anne Borland


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To meet future food and energy security needs, which are amplified by increasing population growth and reduced natural resource availability, metabolic engineering efforts have moved from manipulating single genes/proteins to introducing multiple genes and novel pathways to improve photosynthetic efficiency in a more comprehensive manner. Biochemical carbon-concentrating mechanisms such as crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM), which improves photosynthetic, water-use, and possibly nutrient-use efficiency, represent a strategic target for synthetic biology to engineer more productive C-3 crops for a warmer and drier world. One key challenge for introducing multigene traits like CAM onto a background of C-3 photosynthesis is to gain a better understanding of the dynamic spatial and temporal regulatory events that underpin photosynthetic metabolism. With the aid of systems and computational biology, vast amounts of experimental data encompassing transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics can be related in a network to create dynamic models. Such models can undergo simulations to discover key regulatory elements in metabolism and suggest strategic substitution or augmentation by synthetic components to improve photosynthetic performance and water-use efficiency in C-3 crops. Another key challenge in the application of synthetic biology to photosynthesis research is to develop efficient systems for multigene assembly and stacking. Here, we review recent progress in computational modelling as applied to plant photosynthesis, with attention to the requirements for CAM, and recent advances in synthetic biology tool development. Lastly, we discuss possible options for multigene pathway construction in plants with an emphasis on CAM-into-C-3 engineering.

Publication metadata

Author(s): DePaoli HC, Borland AM, Tuskan GA, Cushman JC, Yang XH

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Experimental Botany

Year: 2014

Volume: 65

Issue: 13

Pages: 3381-3393

Print publication date: 13/07/2014

Online publication date: 24/02/2014

Acceptance date: 16/01/2014

ISSN (print): 0022-0957

ISSN (electronic): 1460-2431



DOI: 10.1093/jxb/eru038