Discovering the secret code behind photosynthesis

Feb 25, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists from Queen Mary, University of London have discovered that an ancient system of communication found in primitive bacteria, may also explain how plants and algae control the process of photosynthesis.

Two-component signal transduction systems (TCSTs) have long been recognised as the main way in which bacteria coordinate their responses to changes in their environment. But recent research has shown that these 'bacterial' two-component systems have also survived in plants and algae, as a way of sending signals within their cells.

These systems, which are thought to have evolved from ancient cyanobacteria, are found in chloroplasts - the part of a cell of a plant which conducts photosynthesis, converting light to chemical energy.

Writing in the Royal Society journal Proceedings of the Royal Society:B, Dr Sujith Puthiyaveetil and Professor John F Allen from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences report that these two-component systems have played a fundamental role in linking the process of photosynthesis with gene expression, thereby determining the way that all plants adapt to changing environments.

Dr Puthiyaveetil explains: "We already know that two-component systems act as a type of on/off switch for genes in bacteria. But the survival of these bacterial-type on/off switches in chloroplasts suggests a new model for gene regulation in plants."

Professor Allen adds: "To many, it will be shock to learn that some messages are sent within plant cells - and, probably, animal cells - using the same telegraph system as the one found in 'primitive' bacteria. It would be like discovering Morse code in your computer network, or a wax cylinder at the heart of your new, shiny digital HiFi. To us, however, the discovery is exciting evidence for an unorthodox theory of cell evolution first published sixteen years ago in the Journal of Theoretical Biology."

More information: 'Chloroplast two-component systems: evolution of the link between photosynthesis and gene expression‘, will be published in the online edition of Proceedings of the Royal Society:B on 25 February 2009.

Source: Queen Mary, University of London

Explore further: 'Tiger heavyweight' Nepal hosts anti-poaching summit

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

SMAP will track a tiny cog that keeps cycles spinning

Jan 27, 2015

When you open the back of a fine watch, you see layer upon layer of spinning wheels linked by interlocking cogs, screws and wires. Some of the cogs are so tiny they're barely visible. Size doesn't matter—what's ...

The path to artificial photosynthesis

Jan 21, 2015

Scientists at the Helmholtz Center for Materials and Energy in collaboration with the School of Chemistry and ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science at Monash University, Australia, have precisely ...

The RV Investigator's role in marine science

Dec 12, 2014

We know more about the surface of the moon than we do about our deepest oceans, and only 12% of the ocean floor within Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone has so far been mapped.

Recommended for you

'Tiger heavyweight' Nepal hosts anti-poaching summit

10 hours ago

Nepal's success in turning tiger-fearing villagers into their protectors has seen none of the endangered cats killed for almost three years, offering key lessons for an anti-poaching summit opening in Kathmandu ...

GMO mosquito plan sparks outcry in Florida

Jan 31, 2015

A British company's plan to unleash hordes of genetically modified mosquitoes in Florida to reduce the threat of dengue fever and other diseases has sparked an outcry from fearful residents.

Population genomics unveil seahorse domain

Jan 30, 2015

In a finding vital to effective species management, a team including City College of New York biologists has determined that the lined seahorse (Hippocampus erectus) is more a permanent resident of the we ...

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.