Professor Dean Price

Group Leader

Professor Dean Price is a previous recipient of an ARC National Research Fellowship and a Queen Elizabeth II Research Fellowship, both personal awards undertaken in the Research School of Biological Sciences, Institute of Advanced Studies, ANU. He was awarded the positions of IAS Fellow (continuing position) at the Molecular Plant Physiology Group in RSBS in 1993 and later as Senior IAS Fellow in 2002.  RSBS-IAS positions were dissolved in Jan 2009 in the mega-merger of RSBS with BoZo and BaMBi. Dean is now a Professor in RSB. He is an acknowledged international expert on the molecular and physiological analysis of the CO2 acquisition processes in cyanobacteria and plants. 

He is now a chief investigator in the following consortia:

Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) Network
(funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation via the University of Illinois)

ARC Centre of Excellence in Translational Photosynthesis

Research interests

  • Synthetic Biogly, Plant physiology and molecular biology;
  • Molecular and physiological analysis of CO2 concentrating mechanisms (CCMs) in cyanobacteria and microalgae; Phylogentic analysis; Transplant of CCM components into crop plants to improve yield and water-use efficiency.
  • Exploiting CCM components to engineer crop plants with greater productivity under semi-arid conditions;
  • Construction and analysis of mutants;
  • CO2 sensing in cyanobacteria;
  • Regulation of gene expression;
  • Proteomic identification of protein complexes;
  • Photosynthetic enzyme analysis;
  • Ion transport mechanisms;
  • electron microscopy and structural anlysis of carboxysomes.

The Price lab is presently focusing on the molecular biology and physiology of photosynthesis in cyanobacteria (blue-green photosynthetic bacteria) with emphasis on gaining a full understanding of the adaptive mechanism known as a the 'CO2 concentrating mechanism' in these organisms (CCM). The CCM operates to elevate the CO2 concentration around the otherwise substrate-limited primary carboxylase, Rubisco, thus improving the efficiency of photosynthetic CO2 fixation. The system features inducible and constitutive transporters for CO2 and HCO3- that actively accumulate HCO3- within the cell through a light-dependent process. Accumulated HCO3- then enters a unique polyhedral Rubisco-containing organelle known as a carboxysome. Here CO2 is generated and maintained at a high steady state concentration with the aid of a carbonic anhydrase enzyme that is specifically located in the carboxysome. In addition, a special property of the carboxysome retards CO2 leakage leading to efficient CO2 fixation. We have produced a suite of defined CCM mutants for intensive analysis. Combined with the existence of several complete genome sequence databases for cyanobacteria, plus some modern molecular techniques, we have some powerful resources available for the molecular elucidation of the CCM. A present goal of this work is to allow the engineering of some useful CCM components into higher plants so that water and nitrogen-use efficiency can be improved.

Techniques used

  • Analysis of changes in transcript abundance using Real time RT-PCR.
  • Proteome analysis of protein complexes using protein mass spectrometry.
  • Physiological analysis of photosynthetic fluxes using membrane-inlet mass spectrometry
  • Structure-function analysis of CO2 transporters using site-directed mutagenesis.
  • Construction and analysis of specific deletion and insertional mutants; bioinformatics and phylogenetics.
  • Engineering of plants with altered gene expressions used for tested for bottlenecks in photosynthesis.

The Price lab holds two ARC Discovery Grants (one on carboxysomes and one on Ci transporters) as well as an ARC Super Science Fellowship grant (probing factors that limit CO2 diffusion within the leaf) and a CSIRO OCE Flagship PhD fellowship with colleagues at Plant Industry.

Selected publications

  • Wang H, Yan X, Aigner H, Bracher A, Nguyen ND, Hee WY, Long BM, Price GD, Hartl FU, Hayer-Hartl M (2019) Rubisco condensate formation by CcmM in β-carboxysome biogenesis. Nature 566 (7742): 131-5.
  • Kaczmarski JA, Hong N-S, Mukherjee B, Wey LT, Rourke L, Förster B, Peat TS, Price GD, Jackson CJ (2019) Structural Basis for the Allosteric Regulation of the SbtA Bicarbonate Transporter by the PII-like Protein, SbtB, from Cyanobium sp. PCC7001. Biochemistry 58: 5031-39.
  • Price GD, Long BM, Förster B (2019) DABs accumulate bicarbonate. Nature microbiology 4: 2029-2030
  • Long BM, Hee WH, Sharwood RE, Rae BD, Sarah S, Lim Y-L, Nguyen ND, Massey B, Bala S, von Caemmerer S, Badger MR and Price GD (2018) Carboxysome encapsulation of the CO2-fixing enzyme Rubisco in tobacco chloroplasts. Nature Communications 9: 3570.
  • Rae BD, Long BM, Förster B, Nguyen ND, Atkinson N, Velanis CN, Hee WY, Mukherjee B, Price GD, and McCormick AJ (2017) Progress and challenges of engineering a biophysical carbon dioxide concentrating mechanism into higher plants. Journal of Experimental Botany 68: 3717-37.
  • Tolleter D, Chochois V, Poiré R, Price GD and Badger MR (2017). Measuring CO2 and HCO3- permeabilities of isolated chloroplasts using a MIMS-18O approach. Journal of Experimental Botany 68: 3915-24.
  • Badger MR, Hanson D and Price GD (2002) Evolution and diversity of CO2 concentrating mechanisms in cyanobacteria. Functional Plant Biology 29: 161-173.
  • Price GD, Woodger FJ, Badger MR, Howitt SM, Tucker L (2004) Identification of a SulP-type bicarbonate transporter in marine cyanobacteria. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (USA). 101 (52): 18228-18233.
  • Woodger FJ, Badger MR, and Price GD (2005) Sensing of inorganic carbon limitation in Synechococcus PCC7942 Is Correlated with the Size of the internal inorganic carbon pool and involves oxygen. Plant Physiology. 39: 1959-1969.
  • Woodger FJ, Bryant DA, and Price GD (2007) Transcriptional regulation of the CO2-concentrating mechanism in a euryhaline, coastal marine cyanobacterium, Synechococcus sp. PCC7002: role of NdhR/CcmR. Journal of Bacteriology. 189: 3335-3347.
  • Long BM, Badger MR, Whitney SM and Price GD (2007) Analysis of Carboxysomes from Synechococcus PCC7942 Reveals Multiple Rubisco Complexes with Carboxysomal Proteins CcmM and CcaA. Journal of Biological Chemistry. 282 : 29323-35.
  • Price GD, Badger MR, Woodger FJ, Long BM (2008) Advances in understanding the cyanobacterial CO2 concentrating mechanism (CCM): functional components, Ci transporters, diversity, genetic regulation and prospects for engineering into plants. Journal of Experimental Botany. 69: 1441-1461.
  • Shelden MC, Howitt SM, Price GD (2010) Membrane topology of the cyanobacterial bicarbonate transporter, BicA, a member of the SulP (SLC26A) family. Molecular Membrane Biology. 27: 12-23. (Figure 2 selected for the cover page of issue 27-1).
  • Long BM, Tucker L, Badger MR and Price GD (2010) Functional Cyanobacterial b-Carboxysomes Have an Absolute Requirement for Both Long and Short Forms of the CcmM Protein1. Plant Physiology. 153: 285–293.
  • Price GD, Badger MR, von Caemmerer S (2011) The prospect of using cyanobacterial bicarbonate transporters to improve leaf photosynthesis in C3 crop plants (Invited Focus Issue). Plant Physiology.
  • Price GD, Howitt SM (2011) The cyanobacterial bicarbonate transporter, BicA: its physiological role and the implications of structural similarities with human SLC26 transporters (Invited review). Biochemistry and Cell Biology 89: 178-188.
  • Price GD (2011) Inorganic carbon transporters of the cyanobacterial CO2 concentrating mechanism (Invited Review). Photosynthesis Research 109: 47-57.
  • Rae BD, Förster B, Badger MR and Price GD (2011) The CO2-concentrating mechanism of Synechococcus WH5701 is composed of native and horizontally-acquired components. Photosynthesis Research 109: 59-72.
  • Long BM, Rae BD, Badger MR and Price GD (2011) Over-expression of the β-carboxysomal CcmM protein in Synechococcus PCC7942 reveals a tight co-regulation of carboxysomal carbonic anhydrase (CcaA) and M58 content. Photosynthesis Research 109: 33-45.
  • Price GD, Shelden MC, Howitt SM (2011) Membrane topology of the cyanobacterial bicarbonate transporter, SbtA, and identification of potential regulatory loops. Molecular Membrane Biology. 28: 265-275.
  • Rae BD, Long BM, Badger MR and Price GD (2012) Structural determinants of the outer shell of b-carboxysomes in Synechococcus elongatus PCC 7942: Roles for CcmK2, K3-K4, CcmO, and CcmL. PlosOne 7: e43871.
  • Price GD, Pengelly JJL, Forster B, Du J, Whitney SM, von Caemmerer S, Badger MR, Howitt SM, Evans JR. (2013) The cyanobacterial CCM as a source of genes for improving photosynthetic CO2 fixation in crop species (Invited Review). Journal of Experimental Botany 64: 753-68.
  • Rae BD, Long BM, Badger MR and Price GD (2013) The function, composition and evolution of the two types of carboxysomes: polyhedral micro-compartments that facilitate CO2 fixation in cyanobacteria and some proteobacteria. (Invited Review). Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews 77: 357-359
  • Rae BD, Long BM, Whitehead LF, Forster B, Badger MR and Price GD (2013) Cyanobacterial carboxysomes: micro-compartments that facilitate CO2 fixation (Invited review). Journal of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology 23(4-5): 300-307
  • Pengelly JJL, Forster B, , von Caemmerer S, Badger MR, Price GD, Whitney SM (2014) Transplastomic integration of a cyanobacterial bicarbonate transporter into tobacco chloroplasts. Journal of Experimental Botany 65:3071-80
  • Whitehead L, Long BM, Price GD and Badger MR (2014) Comparing the in vivo function of α- and β-carboxysomes in two model cyanobacteria. Plant Physiology 165: 398-411.

All publications

Dean has specialised in supervision of research students at Honours and PhD level having been involved directly or indirectly in the supervision of 30 students to date.