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 Nanoparticle Exposure Can Awaken Dormant Viruses in the Lungs
16.01.2017 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt

nachricht Cholera bacteria infect more effectively with a simple twist of shape
13.01.2017 | Princeton 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: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

Im Focus: Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle

17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Smart homes will “LISTEN” to your voice

17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>