Climatic extremes threaten agricultural sustainability worldwide. One approach to increase plant water-use efficiency (WUE) is to introduce crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) into C3 crops. Such a task requires comprehensive systems-level understanding of the enzymatic and regulatory pathways underpinning this temporal CO2 pump. Here we review the progress that has been made in achieving this goal. Given that CAM arose through multiple independent evolutionary origins, comparative transcriptomics and genomics of taxonomically diverse CAM species are being used to define the genetic 'parts list' required to operate the core CAM functional modules of nocturnal carboxylation, diurnal decarboxylation, and inverse stomatal regulation. Engineered CAM offers the potential to sustain plant productivity for food, feed, fiber, and biofuel production in hotter and drier climates.
Keywords: biodesign; bioenergy; crassulacean acid metabolism; engineering CAM into C(3) plants; water-use efficiency.
Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.