Mutant Plants Bred To Stop Global Warming

Discussion in 'Plants: In the News' started by Cakes, Apr 9, 2006.

  1. Cakes

    Cakes Member

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    Northern California, USA
    Global warming may have met its match. In research recently completed at Emory University School of Medicine, scientists have discovered a mutant enzyme that could enable plants to use and convert carbon dioxide more quickly and effectively remove more greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere.

    A 2004 report by the National Science Foundation estimates that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations remained steady at between 200 and 280 parts per million for thousands of years, but that carbon dioxide levels have risen dramatically since the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s, leading to 380 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today.

    For decades, scientists have struggled to engineer something that would more quickly convert carbon dioxide. Our attempts have primarily focused on mutating specific amino acids in an enzyme called RuBisCO, and then seeing if the change affected carbon dioxide conversion. Because of RuBisCO's structural complexity, the mutations that we're looking for have taken a while to develop.

    but develop they did~

    "We decided to do what nature does, but at a much faster pace." Dr. Matsumura (a member of the team) says.

    We used "directed evolution".

    "Essentially we're using evolution as a tool to engineer the protein."

    Because E. coli does not normally participate in photosynthesis or carbon dioxide conversion, it does not usually carry the RuBisCO enzyme and so it made a good subject for the study.

    In this study, our team added the genes encoding RuBisCO and a helper enzyme to E. coli, enabling it to change carbon dioxide into consumable energy. We then randomly mutated the RuBisCO gene. and were successful~

    "These mutations caused a 500 percent increase in RuBisCO expression," Dr. Matsumura reports; "We are excited because such large changes could potentially lead to faster plant growth. These results also suggest that the enzyme is evolving in our laboratory in the same way that it did in nature."

    Yea for directed evolution

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