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Stimulating photosynthetic processes increases productivity and water-use efficiency in the field


Previous studies have demonstrated that the independent stimulation of either electron transport or RuBP regeneration can increase the rate of photosynthetic carbon assimilation and plant biomass. In this paper, we present evidence that a multigene approach to simultaneously manipulate these two processes provides a further stimulation of photosynthesis. We report on the introduction of the cyanobacterial bifunctional enzyme fructose-1,6-bisphosphatase/sedoheptulose-1,7-bisphosphatase or the overexpression of the plant enzyme sedoheptulose-1,7-bisphosphatase, together with the expression of the red algal protein cytochrome c6, and show that a further increase in biomass accumulation under both glasshouse and field conditions can be achieved. Furthermore, we provide evidence that the stimulation of both electron transport and RuBP regeneration can lead to enhanced intrinsic water-use efficiency under field conditions.

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Fig. 1: Screening of transgenic plants overexpressing FBP/SBPase, SBPase and cytochrome c6.
Fig. 2: Photosynthetic responses of transgenic plants grown in the glasshouse.
Fig. 3: Increased SBPase or expression of FBP/SBPase and cytochrome c6 increases biomass in glasshouse-grown plants.
Fig. 4: Simultaneous expression of FBP/SBPase and cytochrome c6 increases biomass in field-grown plants.
Fig. 5: Photosynthetic capacity of field-grown transgenic plants.
Fig. 6: Simultaneous expression of FBP/SBPase and cytochrome c6 can increase water-use efficiency under field conditions.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study, the plant transformation constructs and the seed are available from the corresponding authors on reasonable request.


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This study was supported by the Realising Improved Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) initiative awarded to C.A.R. by the University of Illinois. RIPE was possible through support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, DFID and FFAR, grant no. OPP1172157. This work was also supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) grant no. BB/J004138/1. We thank J. Matthews (University of Essex) for help with the data analysis, E. A. Pelech (University of Illinois) and S. Subramaniam (University of Essex) for help with plant growth, P. A. Davey (University of Essex) and R. Gossen (University of Helsinki) for help with gas exchange, and D. Drag, B. Harbaugh and the Ort lab (University of Illinois) for support with the field trials.

Author information




P.E.L.-C. and A.J.S. generated the transgenic plants. P.E.L.-C., A.J.S., K.L.B. and S.J.F. performed the molecular and biochemical experiments. P.E.L.-C., A.J.S. and K.L.B. carried out the plant phenotypic and growth analysis and performed the gas-exchange measurements. S.V.-C. made the measurements of photosynthesis during light induction. A.J.S. and S.J.F. performed the enzyme assays on selected lines. All authors carried out data analysis on their respective contributions. C.A.R. and T.L. designed and supervised the research. P.E.L.-C., A.J.S. and C.A.R. wrote the manuscript. T.L. contributed to the editing of the manuscript and finalizing of the figures.

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Correspondence to Patricia E. López-Calcagno or Christine A. Raines.

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Supplementary Figs. 1–15 and Table 1.

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López-Calcagno, P.E., Brown, K.L., Simkin, A.J. et al. Stimulating photosynthetic processes increases productivity and water-use efficiency in the field. Nat. Plants 6, 1054–1063 (2020).

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