Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers show how algae make surplus light energy harmless

26.11.2009
Light is of vital importance. However, excessive sunbathing causes sunburn - and not only in people and animals. Intensive exposure to sunlight can be harmful for plants, too.

A team of scientists from Münster and the USA have now been able to show for the first time how green algae protect themselves against such damage. The journal "Nature" carries a report on this in the issue published on 26 November 2009.

Plants are dependent on sunlight for growth. With the aid of light energy they produce sugar molecules which are converted into components of their cells and act as suppliers of energy. In this process plants extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen. This process - called photosynthesis - is the basis of all life on earth.

"Photosynthesis provides the vegetable biomass - and thus the basis of food supply - for people and animals," says Prof. Michael Hippler from the Institute of Biochemistry and Plant Biotechnology at Münster University.

However, using light energy to produce biomass is a tricky business for plants. The absorption of light through cellular pigment molecules, e.g. through chlorophyll, can lead to the production of oxygen radicals in plants and thus damage them. "In order to protect themselves from such oxidative destruction - 'sunburn', so to speak," says Prof. Hippler, "plants have developed mechanisms for converting the surplus light energy into heat energy. Although algae produce a large share of the biomass generated worldwide, very little was known up to now about this protective mechanism in algae - in contrast to flowering plants." An international team of scientists led by Prof. Hippler and Prof. Kris Niyogi from the University of California in Berkeley, USA, have now thrown light on this sun protection mechanism in the unicellular green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.

The sun protection factor is a certain light-harvesting protein (LHCSR3). "In general," explains Prof. Hippler, "such proteins harvest light - as their name suggests - and they make it available for photosynthesis. In this particular case, however, the protein permits the conversion of light energy to heat energy and in the process it renders the surplus light energy harmless." In comparison to traditional light-harvesting proteins, LHCSR3 has very old origins, probably stemming directly from the 'forebear' of all light-harvesting proteins. If there is any obstacle to the production of this protein, the algae are no longer able to dissipate harmful excess energy. They then get 'sunburn', which can in fact result in the alga cells dying.

"Interestingly, flowering plants have lost these protein molecules during their evolution and have developed another sun protection mechanism in which light is also converted into heat energy," says Prof. Hippler. "The discovery of the 'sun protection factor' in algae makes it possible for us to have deep insights into the regulation of aquatic photosynthesis, which is responsible for 50 percent of the primary production of biomass worldwide." Moreover, he says, the insights could be used to optimize the culture of micro-algae in bio-reactors. In this way the biotechnological production of biomass from algae could be improved, e.g. for the production of bio-fuels.

Reference:
Peers G. et al. (2009): An ancient light-harvesting protein is critical for the regulation of algal photosynthesis. Nature 462, 518-521; doi: 10.1038/nature08587

Dr. Christina Heimken | idw
Further information:
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v462/n7272/full/nature08587.html
http://www.uni-muenster.de/hippler/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Link Discovered between Immune System, Brain Structure and Memory
26.04.2017 | Universität Basel

nachricht Researchers develop eco-friendly, 4-in-1 catalyst
25.04.2017 | Brown University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air

26.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ammonium nitrogen input increases the synthesis of anticarcinogenic compounds in broccoli

26.04.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history

26.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>