Biotech Updates

Designing a Better Leaf

November 16, 2007

Scientists from the University of Illinois have succeeded in designing better plants, those that produce more biomass without the need for extra fertilizer, using a computer that mimics the process of evolution. The model created by plant biologists Xin-Guang Zhu and Steve Long and mathematician Eric de Sturler is the first to simulate every step in the photosynthetic process.

Photosynthesis is an intricate process involving a number of complex enzymes and other chemical components. Optimization of the photosynthetic process will lead to plants that can efficiently convert light to chemical energy. However, with the number of enzymes and chemicals involved in the process, it is not feasible to experiment using actual plants. Examining a certain photosynthetic protein at a time would require massive amount of time and money.

The model was found to successfully predict the outcomes of experiments conducted on real plants, including their dynamic response to environmental variations. Using the in silico approach, they were able to identify several proteins that could, if present in greater amount than other molecules, greatly enhance plant productivity. The new findings are consistent with results from other researchers, who found that increases in one of these proteins in transgenic plants increased productivity

 Read the press release at The abstract of the paper published by Plant Physiology is available at