Biological Switch in Plants Paves Way for Improved Biofuel Production
Scientists from Queen Mary, University of London have discovered a mechanism that controls the way organisms breathe or photosynthesize, potentially paving the way for improved biofuel production. Dr. Lu-ning Lu and Prof. Conrad Mullineaux reported that after exposing cells to different light conditions, they have changed the way in which electrons are transported.
Professor Mullineaux explains that "Any organism that breathes or photosynthesizes depends on tiny electrical circuits operating within biological membranes. We are trying to find out what controls these circuits."
Cyanobacteria are a kind of bacterium that both breathes and photosynthesizes and therefore has a complicated set of different possible electron transport pathways. The team put specific fluorescent tags on some of the protein components involved in electron transport, and then viewed the live cells with a flourescence microscope to see where those complexes are in the cell. By studying the cells in this way, the team visualized a biological electrical switch in action. When the light conditions changed (for example by making the light brighter or dimmer), the cell responded by changing the position of the complexes, which leads to major changes in the pathways of electron transport.
The abstract of the paper is available at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, with the following link: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/06/19/1120960109.abstract.
This article is part of the Crop Biotech Update, a weekly summary of world developments in agri-biotech for developing countries, produced by the Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology, International Service for the Aquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications SEAsiaCenter (ISAAA)