Photosynthesis in the Development of Biotechnology in the Future

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A new study conducted by scientists from the University of Münster (WWU) and The University of Queensland (UQ) gives us an opportunity to take a closer look at the process of photosynthesis and explain how it could help in the development of solar biotechnologies in the future.

The cyclic electron flow and how we can use it for our purposes

The paper, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, describes a process of purification and visualization of a so-called “Cyclic Electron Flow” (CEF) supercomplex, which plays an extremely important role in the photosynthesis in all types of plants. In order to accomplish this very difficult ask, the researchers extracted some 500,000 protein complexes from microalgae, trying to find the CEF supercomplex, which was observed in only one thousand of them.

The CEF and how it works

Once they located the CEF supercomplex, the scientists analyzed its structure with help from electron microscopy. What they observed was that the light-harvesting complexes (cytochrome b6f and photosystem l) merge into the CEF supercomplex. They are arranged in a way that allows them to disconnect and connect freely in order to execute diverse functions. Thanks to this, the organism is able to conduct photosynthesis in the changing light conditions and various energy demands.

The future potential of CEF-based technology

This study is expected to help the Centre for Solar Biotechnology in their works on creating solar biotechnologies of the next generation. They plan to modify the photosynthetic process of green algae, which should allow the scientists to develop technologies that could address the growing demand on energy, water and food worldwide. According to some estimates, humanity will need 50% more clean water and fuel, and over 70% more food by the year 2050.


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