Progress and challenges of engineering a biophysical CO2-concentrating mechanism into higher plants

J Exp Bot. 2017 Jun 1;68(14):3717-3737. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erx133.


Growth and productivity in important crop plants is limited by the inefficiencies of the C3 photosynthetic pathway. Introducing CO2-concentrating mechanisms (CCMs) into C3 plants could overcome these limitations and lead to increased yields. Many unicellular microautotrophs, such as cyanobacteria and green algae, possess highly efficient biophysical CCMs that increase CO2 concentrations around the primary carboxylase enzyme, Rubisco, to enhance CO2 assimilation rates. Algal and cyanobacterial CCMs utilize distinct molecular components, but share several functional commonalities. Here we outline the recent progress and current challenges of engineering biophysical CCMs into C3 plants. We review the predicted requirements for a functional biophysical CCM based on current knowledge of cyanobacterial and algal CCMs, the molecular engineering tools and research pipelines required to translate our theoretical knowledge into practice, and the current challenges to achieving these goals.

Keywords: Algae; Rubisco; carboxysome; cyanobacteria; photosynthesis; pyrenoid; transporter.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biophysics
  • Carbon Dioxide / metabolism
  • Cyanobacteria / genetics*
  • Embryophyta / genetics*
  • Photosynthesis*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / genetics*
  • Ribulose-Bisphosphate Carboxylase / metabolism


  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Ribulose-Bisphosphate Carboxylase