November 18, 2014

Cornell Researchers Create a More Efficient Plant Using Genes From Cyanobacteria

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For the first time, a genetically engineered plant is able to turn carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into sugars more efficiently by using a bacterial enzyme.

Maureen Hanson, the Liberty Hyde Bailey professor of plant molecular biology, and Myat Lin, a postdoctoral fellow in Hanson’s lab, have successfully introduced a gene coding for a cyanobacteria protein into the chloroplasts of tobacco. By doing so, the transgenic plants are able to perform photosynthesis more efficiently.

“Rubisco is critical for carbon fixation in all plants,” Hanson said.

Photosynthesis is the series of reactions plants use to take light energy and convert it into chemical energy, or ‘food.’ The amount of an enzyme called Rubisco controls the speed of photosynthesis as a whole. Because of its importance in the photosynthetic cycle, Rubisco became the target of Hanson’s research, she said.

Ellen Woods / Sun File PhotoGenetically-modified greenery |Researchers in plant molecular biology have genetically modified a tobacco plant to be able to photosynthesize more efficiently. This technology could eventually lead to crop plants capapble of producing more food.