To meet the food demands of a rising global population, innovative strategies are required to increase crop yields. Improvements in plant photosynthesis by genetic engineering show considerable potential towards this goal. One prospective approach is to introduce a CO2 concentrating mechanism into crop plants to increase carbon ﬁxation by supplying the central carbon-ﬁxing enzyme, Rubisco, with a higher concentration of its substrate, CO2. A promising donor organism for the molecular machinery of this mechanism is the eukaryotic alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.
The Chlamydomonas CCM [CO2 concentrating mechanism] elevates CO2 around Rubisco, thereby enhancing photosynthesis…It is anticipated that the pace of advancement will accelerate with both the availability of the Chlamydomonas mutant library and the maturation of large-scale systems biology approaches. Modeling studies are urgently needed to guide the stepwise transfer of components from Chlamydomonas to higher plants. In addition, approaches adapted from synthetic biology and pathway-engineering ﬁelds could facilitate the assembly of a CCM in a fast growing, ‘stepping stone’ organism, which could aid our understanding of the minimal components needed for a functional CCM. Engineering a Chlamydomonas or hybrid CCM into a C3 [crop] plant is a grand challenge and with the correct resources could become a reality.
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