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Crop Biotech Update

Researchers Engineer Cell-Like Structure for Photosynthesis

May 30, 2018

An international team of researchers from Harvard University in the United States and Sogang University in Seoul, Korea has engineered a cell-like structure that harnesses photosynthesis to perform metabolic reactions, including energy harvesting, carbon fixation, and cytoskeleton formation.

The researchers engineered a photosynthetic organelle from the unique components from plants and animals to build the synthetic system. Keel Yong Lee, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) said that their idea is simple. They chose two protein photoconverters, one from plants, the other from bacteria, which can generate a gradient across the cellular membrane to trigger reactions.

The photoconverters are sensitive to red and green wavelengths of light. The proteins were embedded in a simple lipid membrane, along with enzymes that generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the essential energy of cells. When the membrane is illuminated with red light, a photosynthetic chemical reaction occurs, producing ATP. When the membrane is illuminated with green light, the production stops. The ability to turn energy production on and off allows the researchers to control many reactions within the cell.

For more details, read the news article at SEAS.