Enhancing photosynthetic efficiency – University of Copenhagen

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21 March 2016

Enhancing photosynthetic efficiency

Elucidating the 3D structure of the thylakoid membrane and how CURT1 proteins affect thylakoid membrane bending are the focus areas of postdoc Anurag Sharma in a new research project funded by Carlsberg.

Postdoc Anurag Sharma has received funding for from Carlsberg for the project “Unravelling the structural and molecular mechanism behind CURT1-dependent thylakoid membrane bending”.

One of the major challenges of our time is the ever increasing global demand for food. Enhancing the photosynthetic efficiency of crops is one of the most promising ways to increase crop yield and biomass production. To achieve this, it is essential to know all relevant components affecting photosynthetic electron flow, and one has to be able to actively modulate them in a controlled and predictable manner.

Postdoc Anurag Sharma from Copenhagen Plant Science Centre, University of Copenhagen has received a scholarship from Carlsberg to study this closer. “My focus is the CURT1 protein complex, which was recently shown to be involved in thylakoid membrane bending. Thylakoids are the membrane compartments in plants where photosynthesis happens and are therefore very interesting when it comes to the photosynthetic efficiency of the plant. But the exact three-dimensional structure of the thylakoid membrane is still not fully understood,” says Anurag Sharma.

Chloroplast: Thylakoids are compartments bound to the membrane inside chloroplasts and cyanobacteria. In higher plants thylakoid membranes are composed of cylindrical grana stacks and unstacked stroma lamella which enwrap and interconnect the grana stacks. The 3D structure of the thylakoid membrane is still under debate.

During the next two years he will work at elucidating the structure of CURT1 proteins as well as unravelling how the thylakoid membrane bending is mediated by the CURT1 proteins. Anurag Sharma elaborates, “One of the major innovative aspects of the project will be the attempt to crystalize the CURT1 membrane proteins. To date, no structural information on CURT1 proteins is available, and data on the three-dimensional structure of CURT1 proteins will act as a model to solve the structure of other membrane proteins. In the long term, I will not only know more about the regulatory mechanisms affecting thylakoid ultrastructure and therefore photosynthesis, but my research could also open up for new ways for designing plant varieties with enhanced plant growth and biomass production.”

Anurag Sharma is a member of the Mathias Pribil lab in Copenhagen Plant Science Centre, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of Copenhagen.

Contact:

Anurag Sharma, postdoc, Copenhagen Plant Science Centre: asharma@plen.ku.dk

Lene Rasmussen, centre coordinator, Copenhagen Plant Science Centre: lras@plen.ku.dk