Discovery of plant protein holds promise for biofuel production

Aug 16, 2008

Scientists at Michigan State University have identified a new protein necessary for chloroplast development. The discovery could ultimately lead to plant varieties tailored specifically for biofuel production.

Chloroplasts, which are specialized compartments in plant cells, convert sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into sugars and oxygen ("fuel" for the plant) during photosynthesis. The newly discovered protein, trigalactosyldiacylglycerol 4, or TGD4, offers insight into how the process works.

"Nobody knew how this mechanism worked before we described this protein," said Christoph Benning, MSU professor of biochemistry and molecular biology. "This protein directly affects photosynthesis and how plants create biomass (stems, leaves and stalks) and oils."

Benning also is a member of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, a partnership between MSU and the University of Wisconsin-Madison funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct basic research aimed at solving some of the most complex problems in converting natural materials to energy.

The research, published in the August 2008 issue of journal The Plant Cell, shows how TGD4 is essential for the plant to make chloroplasts. Plants that don't have the protein die before they can develop beyond the embryonic stage.

Understanding how TGD4 works may allow scientists to create plants that would be used exclusively to produce biofuels, possibly making the process more cost-effective. Most plants that are used to produce oils – corn, soybeans and canola, for example – accumulate the oil in their seeds.

"We've found that if the TGD4 protein is malfunctioning, the plant then accumulates oil in its leaves," Benning said. "If the plant is storing oil in its leaves, there could be more oil per plant, which could make production of biofuels such as biodiesel more efficient. More research is needed so we can completely understand the mechanism of operation."

Source: Michigan State University

Explore further: Purring tempo, sliding notes grab cats' attention

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NY surveying banks on cyber security defenses

27 minutes ago

(AP)—New York financial regulators are considering tougher cyber security requirements for banks to mandate more complex computer sign-ins and certifications from the contractors of their cyber defenses, the state's top ...

Life-saving train design is rarely used

1 hour ago

(AP)—Nearly a decade ago, the U.S. secretary of transportation stood at the site of a horrendous commuter train crash near downtown Los Angeles and called for the adoption of a new train car design that ...

Climate change may flatten famed surfing waves

1 hour ago

On a summer day in 1885, three Hawaiian princes surfed at the mouth of the San Lorenzo River on crudely constructed boards made from coastal redwoods, bringing the sport to the North American mainland.

Recommended for you

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.