That a switching protein plays a task in protecting a plant from an excessive amount of sunlight was already known, but how exactly wasn’t yet understood. The research group of Anjali Pandit has now discovered that this protein changes shape when there’s an excessive amount of sunlight. The results are published in Nature Communications.
Plants need light, but fully sunlight so-called photodamage can occur: acidification takes place within the chloroplasts of the plant. The hypothesis is that the switch protein PsbS reacts to the present acidification and sends a sign to light antenna of the plant. This antenna then switches itself off and ensures that the brilliant sunlight shining on the plant is converted into heat, in order that the plant is not any longer damaged.
Chemist Anjali Pandit, her former Ph.D. candidate Maithili Krishnan of the Leiden Institute of Chemistry and researchers of VU Amsterdam have now discovered how the switching effect of the PsbS protein works: they found that the protein changes its shape when there’s a surplus of sunlight. to this-end, they made targeted mutations on the protein. Subsequently, using advanced NMR and infrared laser techniques, they managed to point out where essential structural changes happen in protein.
Global food security
The protection mechanism in’ which the PsbS protein plays an important role is vital for plants, but it also limits how efficiently a plant can convert sunlight into energy. Pandit: “That is why it’s important that we learn more about the mechanisms behind photosynthesis. By tinkering with photosynthesis, for instance by fine-tuning this protection mechanism against damage, we may improve crops. consider a far better food production and a better tolerance against drought.” Earlier research shows that tobacco plants with increased PsbS production yield 15% more biomass.
The next step is to seek out out how PsbS transmits a alarming-signal in-the plant and the way this results in the adjustment of the photosynthesis reaction. For this, a team of researchers, of which Pandit is apart-of, will collaborate with the assistance of a NWO ENW-GROOT grant from 2020. “With this type of fundamental research, we hope to contribute to global food security during a changing climate.”
The findings are reported on nature communication