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Enhancing photosynthesis by synthetic biology and adaptive evolution

 ERC Synergy Grant project PhotoRedesign

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Only a fraction of the solar spectrum is used by the light reactions and high light intensities can impair and even damage the process. In consequence, expanding the solar spectrum and making the process more stress tolerant could have a strong impact on the production of food, energy or high value compounds. However, the photosynthetic machinery is one of the most complex systems in nature and thus has so far largely resisted man-made improvements by conventional approaches. Therefore, there is an urgent need to develop novel concepts to redesign their light-harvesting and photochemical capacity, as well as to establish new model systems and toolkits for the next generation of photosynthesis researchers. The overall objective of PhotoRedesign is to design in the model organism Synechocystis light reactions that can harvest and safely convert energy from an expanded solar spectrum. To this end, photosystems from different photoautotrophic model organisms – the purple bacterium Rhodobacter sphaeroides, the cyanobacterium Synechocystis PCC6803 and the flowering plant Arabidopsis thaliana - will be combined by synthetic biology, together with their native or de novo-designed antennas, and the capacity of the reimagined organism to cope with enhanced light harvesting will be enhanced by adaptive laboratory evolution.

Participants:

Dario Leister (Munich)

Neil Hunter (Sheffield)

Josef Komenda (Czech Academy)