Researchers unveil the most detailed process of photosynthesis

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Researchers from Michigan State University, along with colleagues from the University of California Berkeley, the University of South Bohemia and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, have helped provide the most accurate representation of crucial biological “antennas” yet.

“Blueprint” for photosynthesis

(Photo: Clay Banks/Unsplash)


Nature created these structures to capture the sun’s energy through photosynthesis, but they are not plants ScienceDaily.

They are present in cyanobacteria, which are the evolutionary descendants of the earliest living things on Earth, capable of converting sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into sugars and oxygen.

The findings, published Aug. 31 in the journal Nature, immediately shed new light on microbial photosynthesis, specifically how light energy is absorbed and channeled to where it’s needed to drive the conversion of carbon dioxide into sugars.

In the future, the findings could help researchers eliminate harmful bacteria in the environment, develop artificial photosynthetic systems for renewable energy, and incorporate microbes into sustainable production that starts with carbon dioxide and sunlight as raw materials.

According to Cheryl Kerfeld, Hannah Distinguished Professor of Structural Bioengineering at the College of Natural Science, there is a lot of interest in using cyanobacteria as solar-powered factories, capturing sunlight and converting it into a type of energy that can be harnessed to make important products.

With a design like the one suggested in this article, you can think about optimizing and improving the light-harvesting component of photosynthesis.

When you understand how something works, you can change and manipulate it better. According to Markus Sutter, senior research fellow at MSU and the Berkeley Lab in California, this is a significant benefit.

For decades, scientists have worked to visualize the many components of phycobilisomes to better understand how they work.

Because phycobilisomes are fragile, this step-by-step method is required.

Researchers were previously unable to obtain high-resolution photos of undamaged antennas, which are needed to understand how they capture and transmit light energy.

“This study represents a milestone in the science of photosynthesis,” said Paul Sauer, a postdoctoral fellow at the Berkeley Group and UC Berkeley in Professor Eva Nogales’ Laboratory for Cryogenic Electron Microscopy.

According to Sauer, until recently the entire light-harvesting structure of the antenna of a cyanobacterium was missing.

The study sheds light on how evolution developed methods for bacteria to convert carbon dioxide and light into oxygen and sugar long before there were plants on our planet.

Like Kerfeld, Sauer is the corresponding author of the new play.

The researchers reported several important findings, including the discovery of a novel phycobilisome protein and the discovery of two previously unknown ways in which the phycobilisome directs its light-capturing rods.

Prior to this study, researchers knew that when the phycobilisome received too much sunlight, it could trap compounds known as orange carotenoid proteins ​​or OCPs.

The extra energy is released by the OCPs as heat, preventing a cyanobacterium’s photosynthetic system from burning up.

Previously, scientists disagreed on how many OCPs the phycobilisome could bind and where those binding sites are located.

The new study provides answers to these fundamental questions as well as potentially useful insights.

This type of surge protection technology, known as photoprotection, which has analogues in the plant world, is inherently inefficient.

Cyanobacteria are sluggish in turning off their photoprotection once it has served its purpose.

And despite their contribution to making the world habitable for humans and countless other creatures that need oxygen to thrive, cyanobacteria have a negative side effect.

Toxins produced by cyanobacteria blooms in lakes, ponds, and reservoirs can be deadly to natural ecosystems as well as humans and their pets.

Knowing how bacteria not only harvest the sun’s energy but also defend themselves against too much of it can inspire new ways to combat dangerous buds.

Also read: Scientists are bringing ancient enzymes back to life to boost photosynthesis

What is the importance of photosynthesis?

Photosynthesis is essential for the survival of most life on earth. It is the process by which almost all of the energy in the biosphere becomes accessible to living organisms, as per Britannica.

As primary producers, photosynthetic organisms form the basis of the earth’s food web and are eaten directly or indirectly by all higher life forms.

In addition, photosynthesis accounts for almost all of the oxygen in the atmosphere.

If photosynthesis stopped, there would soon be little food or other organic matter left on Earth, most species would disappear, and the Earth’s atmosphere would eventually be almost depleted of gaseous oxygen.

Related article: How well a soil microorganism can stimulate artificial photosynthesis, according to experts

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