Plant Science

Discovery of New Type of Photosynthesis

A new research led by the researchers of University of Imperial College London has the potential to change the universal vision about the photosynthesis and brings the need to rewrite the textbooks.

Photosynthesis is the process to produce the energy and other biochemical with the help of chlorophyll, carbon dioxide, water, and visible light. A new study discovered a new type of photosynthesis which does not use visible light, instead use the far infrared light which has less amount of energy photon than the visible light (“the red light”).

The research team found this new type of photosynthesis in wide range of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) when they grow in near-infrared light, found in shaded conditions like bacterial mats in Yellowstone and in beach rock in Australia.

During their study, scientists found that while the universal type of photosynthesis( that we studied in school, college and everywhere) uses chlorophyll a for red light absorption and using its energy for producing biochemical and oxygen but when cyanobacteria were grown in infrared light in a shaded area, they found that chlorophyll a photosystem gets switched off while other chlorophyll starts driving photosynthesis process. This chlorophyll is none other than chlorophyll f which according to previous studies has the only function in the light harvest.

 This current study shows that this chlorophyll f often termed ‘accessory’ chlorophylls were actually performing the crucial chemical step, rather than the textbook ‘special pair’ of chlorophylls in the centre of the complex.

Lead researcher Professor Bill Rutherford, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial, said: “The new form of photosynthesis made us rethink what we thought was possible. It also changes how we understand the key events at the heart of standard photosynthesis. This is textbook changing stuff.”

With this study in mind, researchers can engineer crops in a way that they can function more efficiently in a wide range of light.

This new type of photosynthesis occurs only in special infrared condition; in normal light conditions, the standard red form of photosynthesis is used.

Peter Burlinson, lead for frontier bioscience at BBSRC – UKRI says, “This is an important discovery in photosynthesis, a process that plays a crucial role in the biology of the crops that feed the world. Discoveries like this push the boundaries of our understanding of life and Professor Bill Rutherford and the team at Imperial should be congratulated for revealing a new perspective on such a fundamental process.”


The BioScientist

The BioScientist is a platform for biological and biomedical thinker which covers the innovative technologies and scientific discoveries in the field of Biosciences.

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