We hope to understand what structural features make the Rubisco from C4 plants faster and integrate this feature into the slower Rubisco in C3 plants
Rubisco from C3 and C4 plants have contrasting catalytic properties that reflect the enzyme’s respective operating environment. For C4 Rubisco, the general improvements in their CO2-fixation rates have generally come at the expense of a lower CO2 affinity. With unfolding climate change, the operating environments of many C3 crops are looking increasingly similar to those favouring C4 plants (hot, dry and CO2-enriched). This raises the possibility that the 'faster' Rubisco from C4 plants could enhance the productivity and efficiency of C3 crops, particularly if they have been engineered with additional chemistry to saturate CO2 near Rubisco and thus avoid the limitations of Rubiscos wasteful oxygenase activity.
Using recent technological breakthroughs in Rubisco engineering in the model plant tobacco, a variety of projects are available to experimentally pin-point evolutionary switches in C4 Rubiscos that enhance catalytic turnover rate. The goal is to integrate these structural switches into the Rubisco from C3 plants to accelerate their CO2-fixation rate and examine how this impacts photosynthesis and plant growth.