Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


'Safety valve' protects photosynthesis from too much light

Photosynthetic organisms need to cope with a wide range of light intensities, which can change over timescales of seconds to minutes. Too much light can damage the photosynthetic machinery and cause cell death. Scientists at the Carnegie Institution were part of a team that found that specific proteins in algae can act as a safety valve to dissipate excess absorbed light energy before it can wreak havoc in cells.

The research, performed mostly by Graham Peers in the laboratory of Krishna Niyogi from the University of California, Berkeley, included researchers at the University of Münster, Germany, and used a mutant strain of the single-celled green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, originally isolated at the Carnegie Institution, to show that a specific protein of the light harvesting family of proteins plays a critical role in eliminating excess absorbed light energy.

A mutant lacking this protein, designated LHCSR, suffered severely when exposed to fluctuating light conditions. "Photosynthetic organisms must be able to manage absorbed light energy," says study co-author Arthur Grossman of Carnegie's Department of Plant Biology, "and the LHCSR proteins appear to be critical for algae to eliminate absorbed light energy as heat as light levels in the environment fluctuate, becoming potentially toxic."

Grossman points out that photosynthetic organisms have developed a number of different mechanisms for managing the absorption of light energy and that these different mechanisms may be tailored to the diversity of environments in which organisms have evolved. Some have evolved in deserts where both light levels and temperatures can be very high while others have evolved in alpine environments where the light levels can be very high and temperatures very low.

"As we understand more about the ways in which the environment impacts the evolution of the photosynthetic machinery, we may be able to introduce specific mechanisms into plants that allow them to better manage absorbed light energy, which in turn would let them survive harsher environmental conditions" Grossman says, "which would have obvious benefits for agriculture."

He also notes the current interest in using algae to generate biofuels, and the possibility of cultivating algae in deserts, where solar input can be extremely high. As he states, "If we are going to attempt this we have to make sure that we use the right algae that can thrive and produce oils at high levels under harsh environmental conditions. It's possible that we can also tailor various features of the photosynthetic machinery to let algae use light energy more efficiently and suffer less damage under extremely high light and temperature conditions, but I would emphasize that there are many extreme challenges associated with the creation of such robust, commercially viable strains."

The research appears in the 26 November issue of Nature.

The Carnegie Institution ( has been a pioneering force in basic scientific research since 1902. It is a private, nonprofit organization with six research departments throughout the U.S. Carnegie scientists are leaders in plant biology, developmental biology, astronomy, materials science, global ecology, and Earth and planetary science.

Arthur Grossman | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Gene therapy shows promise for treating Niemann-Pick disease type C1
27.10.2016 | NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute

nachricht 'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape
27.10.2016 | International School of Advanced Studies (SISSA)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>