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Crop Biotech Update

Researchers Discover Switching Protein Protects Plants from Too Much Sunlight

April 28, 2021
The protein structure of PsbS, with the two glutamate side chains (yellow) that react upon acidification in excess light and in response induce a conformational change of the blue and pink protein sites. Following, this activates a protection mechanism. Photo source: Leiden University

A switching protein plays a role in protecting plants from too much sunlight, but how it exactly happens was not fully understood. Now, researchers from the Leiden Institute of Chemistry and VU Amsterdam led by chemist Anjali Pandit have discovered how the switching effect of the PsbS protein works.

The team discovered that the PsbS protein changes its shape when there is a surplus of sunlight. Using advanced nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and infrared laser techniques, they managed to show where essential structural changes take place in the protein. The results of their work are published in Nature Communications.

Pandit says that it is important to learn more about the mechanisms behind photosynthesis. "By tinkering with photosynthesis, for example by fine-tuning this protection mechanism against damage, we can improve crops." Earlier research shows that tobacco plants with increased PsbS production yield 15 percent more biomass. The next step is to find out how PsbS transmits a warning signal in the plant and how this leads to the adjustment of the photosynthesis reaction.

For more details, read the article on the Leiden University website or the open-access paper in Nature Communications.

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