Journal of plant physiology

Strategies for engineering C(4) photosynthesis.

PMID 23245935


C(3) photosynthesis is an inefficient process, because the enzyme that lies at the heart of the Benson-Calvin cycle, ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase-oxygenase (Rubisco) is itself a very inefficient enzyme. The oxygenase activity of Rubisco is an unavoidable side reaction that is a consequence of its reaction mechanism. The product of oxygenation, glycollate 2-P, has to be retrieved by photorespiration, a process which results in the loss of a quarter of the carbon that was originally present in glycollate 2-P. Photorespiration therefore reduces carbon gain. Purely in terms of carbon economy, there is, therefore, a strong selection pressure on plants to reduce the rate of photorespiration so as to increase carbon gain, but it also improves water- and nitrogen-use efficiency. Possibilities for the manipulation of plants to decrease the amount of photorespiration include the introduction of improved Rubisco from other species, reconfiguring photorespiration, or introducing carbon-concentrating mechanisms, such as inorganic carbon transporters, carboxysomes or pyrenoids, or engineering a full C(4) Kranz pathway using the existing evolutionary progression in C(3)-C(4) intermediates as a blueprint. Possible routes and progress to suppressing photorespiration by introducing C(4) photosynthesis in C(3) crop plants will be discussed, including whether single cell C(4) photosynthesis is feasible, how the evolution of C(3)-C(4) intermediates can be used as a blueprint for engineering C(4) photosynthesis, which pathway for the C(4) cycle might be introduced and the extent to which processes and structures in C(3) plant might require optimisation.