Condensation of rubisco into a proto-pyrenoid in higher plant chloroplasts

Nicky Atkinson, Yuwei Mao, Kher Xing Chan, Alistair J McCormick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Photosynthetic CO2 fixation in plants is limited by the inefficiency of the CO2-assimilating enzyme Rubisco (D-ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/ oxygenase)1-3. In plants possessing the C3 pathway, which includes most major staple crops, Rubisco is typically evenly distributed throughout the chloroplast stroma. However, in almost all eukaryotic algae Rubisco aggregates within a microcompartment known as the pyrenoid, in association with a CO2-concentrating mechanism that improves photosynthetic operating efficiency under conditions of low inorganic carbon4. Recent work has shown that the pyrenoid matrix is a phase-separated, liquid-like condensate5. In the alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, condensation is mediated by two components: Rubisco and the linker protein EPYC1 (Essential Pyrenoid Component 1)6,7. Here we show that expression of mature EPYC1 and a plant-algal hybrid Rubisco leads to spontaneous condensation of Rubisco into a single phase-separated compartment in Arabidopsis chloroplasts, with liquid-like properties similar to a pyrenoid matrix. The condensate displaces the thylakoid membranes and is enriched in hybrid Rubisco containing the algal Rubisco small subunit required for phase separation. Promisingly, photosynthetic CO2 fixation and growth is not impaired in stable transformants compared to azygous segregants. These observations represent a significant initial step towards enhancing photosynthesis in higher plants by introducing an algal CO2-concentrating mechanism, which is predicted to significantly increase the efficiency of photosynthetic CO2 uptake 8,9.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6303
Number of pages9
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 9 Dec 2020


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