Spectral extension in photosynthesis: molecular mechanism of photosynthesis driven by red-shifted chlorophylls

Summary

Novel pigments and new directions in photosynthesis: past, now and future. There are five different forms of chlorophylls, Chl a, Chl b, Chl c, Chl d and Chl f. Chlorophyll a is the most abundant chlorophyll, present in the reaction centre and light-harvesting complexes of almost all oxygenic photosynthetic organisms. The discoveries of the Chl d-containing Acaryochloris marina [Miyashita et al. 1996] and the newly discovery of Chl f [Chen et al. 2010] have challenged the minimum threshold energy input for oxygenic photosynthesis [Chen and Blankenship 2011].

Supervisor(s)

Associate Professor Min Chen

Research Location

School of Biological Sciences

Program Type

Masters/PHD

Synopsis

Photosynthesis – the most important reaction on the Earth – is the agent that stores the energy of sunlight into carbohydrates for later use in the biosphere. To increase the efficiency of photosynthesis, Nature has evolved varieties of chlorophyll that encompass most of the range of visible light, enabling the maximal use of sunlight. Chlorophyll a was considered to be the only chlorophyll that can use the energy of sunlight to power the water-splitting reaction in oxygenic photosynthesis: this is the essential reaction that keeps the natural biosphere functioning. However, the possible solar energy efficiency between the Chl a/b system, from 400 to 700 nm, and the red-shifted chlorophylls-photosynthetic systems that can use the light from 400–760 nm can increase the solar energy conversion potential. Understanding the molecular mechanism of red-shifted chlorophyll-photosynthesis would be the first step toward potential application in artificial photosynthesis and renewable bioenergy. 

Additional Information

•    Current PhD/Hons topics being undertaken at the location or with the supervisors
Three PhD Projects are being undertaken in A/Prof Chen’s laboratory.
1.    Light-harvesting systems in Chromera velia
2.    Function of antenna systems in a newly isolated cyanobacterium containing chlorophyll f
3.    Global protein analysis of cyanobacterium Acaryochloris marina under various oxygen-stressed conditions.

•    Is the opportunity also available for Honours students?
Yes, one-year potential projects are available for honours students. Details please contact A/Prof Min Chen (min.chen@sydney.edu.au)

•    Techniques, methodologies, research approaches, technologies, etc., employed by the project - e.g., electron microscopy, textual analysis, etc.
Pigment and pigment-bound protein analyses are performed by using a spectrophotometer, fluorescence photometer and other molecular spectral analysis methods.
General protein isolation and characteristic methods, such as electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE, IEF, Western Blotting, Native electrophoresis, 2-D gel, peptide mass finger printing and other proteomic analysis.

Chromatographic anaylsis such as HPLC (high-performance liquid chromatography), FPLC (Fast protein liquid chromatography), gel filtration and ion-exchanging columns for proteins and protein-complexes purification.
DNA, RNA isolation, PCR (DNA as templates) and RT-PCR (RNA as templates), Gene transformation and functional studies in vitro.

General biochemical and molecular biological experiences are required for potential students who want to study inthe laboratory. Hons A or similar experiences is required.

• Scholarships/funding available
ARC Centre of Excellent for Translational Photosynthesis (2014-2020)
Biosynthesis of chlorophylls (ARC Future Fellow, 2013-2016)
ARC Discovery Project (2012-2014)

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Keywords

Photosynthesis, evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis, chlorophyll, light-harvesting complexes, phycobiliproteins, chlorophyll-binding protein complexes, proteomics of membrane-bound protein complexes, Protein structural models. Stress-response plant physiology (light, oxygen and nutrients), biosynthesis of chlorophyll and other photopigments. Acaryochloris, blue-green algae, cyanobacteria, Bioinformatics and functional genomics, hongdechloris

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 1307

Other opportunities with Associate Professor Min Chen