Manipulating sugar production in plant leaves could boost photosynthesis, crop yields

How the Global Industrial Food Complex Leaves People Hungry and Undernourished
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Plants make sugars to form leaves to grow and produce grains and fruits through the process of photosynthesis, but sugar accumulation can also slow down photosynthesis. Researching how sugars in plants control photosynthesis is therefore an important part of finding new ways of improving crop production.

Recent research into highly productive turbocharged crops such as maize and sorghum, show the secret to their productivity could lie in their sugar sensing responses which regulate photosynthesis inside their leaves.

“By comparing rice and millet we found that crops that use the C4 photosynthesis path, such as maize, sorghum and millet, regulate photosynthesis using different sugar signal mechanisms than C3 crops, such as wheat and rice. This may be part of the reason why they are more productive,” said lead researcher Dr Clemence Henry from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis (CoETP).

“Plants can detect how much sugar is being produced and used through a complex set of sugar sensing mechanisms. These mechanisms can shut photosynthesis down if sugar accumulation is too high. However, to our surprise, we found out that unlike previously shown in some C3 plants, C4 plants are not so sensitive to high levels of sugars, which shows us that the feedback mechanism is not as simple as we previously thought” Dr Henry says.

“We are trying to understand how photosynthesis is regulated in C4 plants, which are some of the most important cereals in global food production. The regulation mechanisms have been well studied in C3 plants, but until now, we didn’t know what happens in C4 crops and how this is related to their ability to produce more sugars,” says Dr Oula Ghannoum, CoETP Chief investigator at Western Sydney University.

Related article:  'Sugar is the villain': Biohacking and synthetic biology do battle against diabetes and heart disease

“One of the most exciting outcomes of this research is that if we understand how sugar signalling works in C4 crops, in the future when we transfer turbocharged photosynthesis mechanisms to crops like wheat and rice we will ensure we improve their yield,” says Dr Ghannoum.

Improving photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert sunlight, water and CO2 into organic matter, is recognised as one of the best ways to increase crop production.

“The tricky part is to translate the results found at the molecular level to the crop level. For improved photosynthesis to give more yield we need to “take the brakes off” the crop. This is an essential piece of the puzzle to achieve improved yield through increased photosynthesis,” says CoETP Director Professor Robert Furbank, one of the authors of this study.

During the study, published recently in the Journal of Experimental Botany, the scientists used light intensity as a means to increase sugar production and identify the genes responsible for photosynthesis regulation. This is one of the few studies that are focusing on the source of sugar production where photosynthesis happens, rather than in the sinks where sugars are used by the plant. This is one of the few studies that are focusing on the source (leaves) where sugar production and photosynthesis take place, rather than in the sinks (grains, fruits) where sugars are used.

“We still have a lot of unanswered questions about how these sugar sensors work. Our next steps are to manipulate these sensors, which will help us to gather essential information we need to transfer them to C3 crops in the future,” Dr Ghannoum says.

Original article: Too much sugar doesn’t put the brakes on turbocharged crops

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
a a b b a f ac a

Video: Death by COVID: The projected grim toll in historical context

The latest statistics, as of July 10, show COVID-19-related deaths in U.S. are just under 1,000 per day nationally, which is ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
types of oak trees

Infographic: Power of evolution? How oak trees came to dominate North American forests

Over the course of some 56 million years, oaks, which all belong to the genus Quercus, evolved from a single undifferentiated ...
biotechnology worker x

Can GMOs rescue threatened plants and crops?

Some scientists and ecologists argue that humans are in the midst of an "extinction crisis" — the sixth wave of ...
food globe x

Are GMOs necessary to feed the world?

Experts estimate that agricultural production needs to roughly double in the coming decades. How can that be achieved? ...
eating gmo corn on the cob x

Are GMOs safe?

In 2015, 15 scientists and activists issued a statement, "No Scientific consensus on GMO safety," in the journal Environmental Sciences ...
Screen Shot at PM

Charles Benbrook: Agricultural economist and consultant for the organic industry and anti-biotechnology advocacy groups

Independent scientists rip Benbrook's co-authored commentary in New England Journal calling for reassessment of dangers of all GMO crops and herbicides ...
Screen Shot at PM

ETC Group: ‘Extreme’ biotechnology critic campaigns against synthetic biology and other forms of ‘extreme genetic engineering’

The ETC Group is an international environmental non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Canada whose stated purpose is to monitor "the impact of emerging technologies and ...
Share via
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend