Crop Biotech Update

Rutgers Study Sheds Light on Evolution of Photosynthesis

July 1, 2021

A study led by scientists from Rutgers University that could help improve crop production sheds new light on the evolution of photosynthesis in plants and algae. The scientists reviewed research on the photosynthetic amoeba Paulinella, and published their results in New Phytologist.


Paulinella is a model used to explore eukaryote evolution and answer the fundamental question of the single origin of algae and plants: Why did photosynthesis by primary plastid endosymbiosis not originate multiple times in the tree of life? Endosymbiosis is a relationship between two organisms wherein one cell resides inside the other. This interaction can result in massive genetic innovation. However, there is limited knowledge about how endosymbiosis is initially established. Primary plastid endosymbiosis, which evolved about 1.5 billion years ago, is the process in which a eukaryote engulfs a prokaryote. The plastid is a membrane-bound organelle within the cells of plants and algae.

Senior author Debashish Bhattacharya, a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology at Rutgers University-New Brunswick said that photosynthesis results in enormous risks because it produces harmful chemicals and heat as byproducts that can damage the host cell. Creating a novel organelle is a highly complex process that makes it fleetingly rare in evolution. Paulinella, which is the only known case of an independent plastid primary endosymbiosis other than in algae and plants, offers many clues to this process that helps explain why it is so rare.

For more details, read the article in Rutgers Today.

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