Biotech Updates

MSU Scientists Discover New Proteins Involved in Photosynthesis

November 4, 2011

A team of researchers at the Michigan State University have discovered a a new class of proteins called Clumped Chloroplasts, which are important in the perpetuation of chloroplasts during cell division. They discovered these proteins when Katherine Osteryoung, the head of the research team, was studying a mutant Arabidopsis plant which failed to produce one of the proteins labeled as CLMP1. She observed that the chloroplasts almost finished dividing but failed to separate completely.

"The mutant plants had chloroplasts that appeared like clusters of grapes," said Osteryoung. "In normal plants, chloroplasts are separated and distributed throughout cells. This enables the chloroplasts to move freely around the cell to maximize photosynthesis. In the mutant, where the chloroplasts remain bunched together, they cannot move around as freely, which probably impairs photosynthesis. The discovery of CLMP1 helps explain how plants have evolved mechanisms to promote chloroplast division and dispersal and avoid clumping."

CLMP1 are also present in crop plants, thus, could also be used to improve corn, wheat, soybean, among others. "In the long run, this could lead to improvements in crops through breeding and/or genetic manipulation for improved chloroplast distribution," Osteryoung concluded.

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