During COVID, scientists turn to computers to understand C4 photosynthesis

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When COVID closed down their lab in March, a team from the University of Essex turned to computational approaches to understand what makes some plants better adapted to transform light and carbon dioxide into yield through photosynthesis. They published their findings in the journal Frontiers of Plant Science.
There are two kinds of photosynthesis: C3 and C4. Most food crops depend on C3 photosynthesis where carbon is fixed into sugar inside cells called ‘mesophyll’ where oxygen is abundant. However, oxygen can hamper photosynthesis. C4 crops evolved specialized bundle sheath cells to concentrate carbon dioxide, which makes C4 photosynthesis as much as 60 percent more efficient.
In this study, scientists wanted to find out how C4 crops are able to express several important enzymes inside bundle sheath cells instead of the mesophyll.
“The ultimate goal is to be able to understand these mechanisms so that we can improve C3 photosynthesis in food crops like cowpea and cassava that smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa depend on for their families’ food and income,” said Chidi Afamefule, a postdoctoral researcher working on Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) at Essex.
Led by the University of Illinois at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, RIPE …

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