Biotech Updates

Researchers Map Key to Energy-Making Process in Plants; Help Engineer High-Yielding, Stress Resistant Crops

September 30, 2021

A team of researchers led by the Imperial College London and the Queen Mary University of London have mapped a key process in energy conversion in plants. This study could help scientists improve the resilience of important crops and engineer bacteria that can produce useful compounds such as pharmaceuticals more sustainably.

All cells, including plants and animals, use adenosine triphosphate (ATP) as their energy currency. Animals and humans make ATP through respiration, whereas plants use photosynthesis to convert sunlight into ATP. In plant cells, an intermediate step involves light energy being used to create a ‘proton gradient', which then helps create ATP. However, how the proton gradient is created is poorly understood. This is particularly true for one part of the molecular machinery plants use in this process, called photosynthetic complex 1 (PS-C1).

The team behind the new study has mapped how an electron transfer process required for setting up a proton gradient in PS-C1 works, providing key information about how plants and photosynthetic bacteria can gain extra energy. Lead researcher Dr. Maxie Roessler from the Department of Chemistry at Imperial, said, "With this study, we contribute to understanding how cells convert the potential energy in proton gradients into chemical energy – a process which underpins nearly all life on earth."

For more details, read the news article on the Imperial College of London website.

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