Developing a pathway to incorporate red-shifted chlorophylls into light-harvesting complexes to extend the solar spectrum in photosynthesis


Improving light energy capture to increase biomass and crop production


Professor Min Chen

Research Location

School of Biological Sciences

Program Type



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. The efficient electron transfer from antenna to reaction centres will affect the process of photosynthesis, so developing pathways to incorporate red-shifted chlorophylls (chlorophyll d or chlorophyll f) into light harvesting complexes to extend the solar spectrum available for photosynthesis is desirable. An approach to manipulate the size of antenna to redistribute light absorption with leaves and crop canopy would be tested to understand how they vary their capability to absorb different parts of the solar spectrum and energy transfer pathway, and further improve light capture for increasing biomass and crop production.  

The project requires basic knowledge of plant science and the processes of photosynthesis. The approaches for this project include biochemical analysis of chlorophylls and their intermediates and characterisation of pigment-protein reconstitution in vitro and in vivo.

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 (

• 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 UV/Vis spectrophotometer, fluorescence spectrophotometer 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 fingerprinting and other proteomic analysis, protein structure analysis (including electron microscope image analysis and structural modelling).

Chromatographic analysis 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.

• 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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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: 1863

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