Synthetic biology and photosynthesis

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Synthetic biology and photosynthesis

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The rise in heatwaves and drought severely affect the capacity of crops to retain water and capture CO2 during photosynthesis, resulting in global yield reductions. One of the most promising approaches to enhance crop production in these conditions is to modify the photosynthetic capacity of plants. Indeed, some lineages have evolved mechanisms like C4 photosynthesis and the Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) to cope with some of these aspects. C4 species are extremely efficient at CO2 fixation but vulnerable to severe drought. Meanwhile, CAM plants are less productive but very capable of coping with significant drought periods.

In this regard, our group is interested in understanding how global re-arrangements of gene regulatory networks have shaped the evolution of carbon concentrating mechanisms like C4 and CAM and to use this information to engineer novel photosynthetic pathways. To do so, we employ different genomics, phenomics and synthetic biology tools.

This approach seeks to address the critical issue of sustaining crop productivity in the face of changing environmental conditions.

Selected Publications

Borba, A.R.*, Reyna-Llorens, I.*, Dickinson, P.J., Steed, G., Gouveia, P., Górska, A.M., Gomes, C., Kromdijk, J., Webb, A.A., Saibo, N.J. and Hibberd, J.M.
Compartmentation of photosynthesis gene expression in C4 maize depends on time of day.
(2023) Plant Physiology, p.kiad447.

Reyna-Llorens, I., Ferro-Costa, M., & Burgess, S. J.
Plant protoplasts in the age of synthetic biology.
(2023) Journal of experimental botany, erad172.

Burgess, S. J*., Reyna-Llorens, I*., Stevenson, S. R., Singh, P., Jaeger, K., & Hibberd, J.
Genome-wide transcription factor binding in leaves from C3 and C4 grasses.
(2019) The Plant Cell 31(10), pp. 2297–2314

Reyna-Llorens, I., Burgess, S.J., Reeves, G., Singh, P., Stevenson, S.R., Williams, B.P., Stanley, S. and Hibberd, J.M.,
Ancient duons may underpin spatial patterning of gene expression in C4 leaves.
(2018) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(8), pp.1931-1936

Yu, Z., Boehm, C. R., Hibberd, J. M., Abell, C., Haseloff, J., Burgess, S. J., & Reyna-Llorens, I*.
Droplet-based microfluidic analysis and screening of single plant cells.
(2018) PLoS ONE 13(5): e0196810.

Reyna-Llorens, I., & Hibberd, J. M.
Recruitment of pre-existing networks during the evolution of C4 photosynthesis.
(2017) Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 372(1730), 20160386.