Cyanobacterial-based approaches to improving photosynthesis in plants

J Exp Bot. 2013 Jan;64(3):787-98. doi: 10.1093/jxb/ers294. Epub 2012 Oct 23.


Plants rely on the Calvin-Benson (CB) cycle for CO(2) fixation. The key carboxylase of the CB cycle is ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (RubisCO). Efforts to enhance carbon fixation in plants have traditionally focused on RubisCO or on approaches that can help to remedy RubisCO's undesirable traits: its low catalytic efficiency and photorespiration. Towards reaching the goal of improving plant photosynthesis, cyanobacteria may be instrumental. Because of their evolutionary relationship to chloroplasts, they represent ideal model organisms for photosynthesis research. Furthermore, the molecular understanding of cyanobacterial carbon fixation provides a rich source of strategies that can be exploited for the bioengineering of chloroplasts. These strategies include the cyanobacterial carbon concentrating mechanism (CCM), which consists of active and passive transporter systems for inorganic carbon and a specialized organelle, the carboxysome. The carboxysome encapsulates RubisCO together with carbonic anhydrase in a protein shell, resulting in an elevated CO(2) concentration around RubisCO. Moreover, cyanobacteria differ from plants in the isoenzymes involved in the CB cycle and the photorespiratory pathways as well as in mechanisms that can affect the activity of RubisCO. In addition, newly available cyanobacterial genome sequence data from the CyanoGEBA project, which has more than doubled the amount of genomic information available for cyanobacteria, increases our knowledge on the CCM and the occurrence and distribution of genes of interest.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Carbon Dioxide / metabolism
  • Cyanobacteria / genetics
  • Cyanobacteria / metabolism*
  • Metabolic Engineering
  • Photosynthesis*
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Plants / microbiology


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Carbon Dioxide