Arren Bar-Even, Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology, Enhancing plant productivity via synthetic photorespiration that avoids CO2 release

Since the green revolution, the efficiency in which crop plants intercept light and the partitioning of biomass to harvested plant organs were dramatically increased. However, the efficiency of converting the intercepted radiation into biomass is still very low. Hence, for a new green revolution to feed the continually increasing population, carbon fixation efficiency will have to be significantly improved. As natural photorespiration dissipates energy and leads to the futile loss of CO2, implementing an efficient photorespiration bypass route could increase the photosynthetic efficiency of many cultivated crops. In this talk I will discuss a new undertaking aiming to tackle this inefficiency by engineering synthetic and optimized CO2-neutral or CO2-positive photorespiration bypasses based on novel enzyme chemistry. These bypass routes could support 60% higher biomass yield per turn of the Calvin Cycle and >30% higher yield per ATP. This project comprises a significant advance in synthetic biology – applying biochemical principles to modify the very core of carbon metabolism with synthetic pathways that carry multiple novel enzymatic functions.