Photosynthetic efficiency is a major target for improvement of crop yield potential under agricultural field conditions. Inefficiencies can occur in many steps of the photosynthetic process, from chloroplast biogenesis to functioning of the light harvesting and carbon fixation reactions. Nuclear-encoded GOLDEN2-LIKE (GLK) transcription factors regulate some of the earliest steps by activating target genes encoding chloroplast-localized and photosynthesis-related proteins. Here we show that constitutive expression of maize GLK genes in rice leads to enhanced levels of chlorophylls and pigment-protein antenna complexes, and that these increases lead to improved light harvesting efficiency via photosystem II in field-grown plants. Increased levels of xanthophylls further buffer the negative effects of photoinhibition under high or fluctuating light conditions by facilitating greater dissipation of excess absorbed energy as heat. Significantly, the enhanced photosynthetic capacity of field-grown transgenic plants resulted in increased carbohydrate levels and a 30-40% increase in both vegetative biomass and grain yield.
Conflict of interest statement
The authors declare no competing interests.
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