2012, DOI: 10.3109/07388551.2010.533119

A critical review on the improvement of photosynthetic carbon assimilation in C-3 plants using genetic engineering

Critical Reviews in Biotechnology


Global warming is one of the most serious challenges facing us today. It may be linked to the increase in atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse gases (GHGs), leading to a rise in sea level, notable shifts in ecosystems, and in the frequency and intensity of wild fires. There is a strong interest in stabilizing the atmospheric concentration of CO2 and other GHGs by decreasing carbon emission and/or increasing carbon sequestration. Biotic sequestration is an important and effective strategy to mitigate the effects of rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations by increasing carbon sequestration and storage capacity of ecosystems using plant photosynthesis and by decreasing carbon emission using biofuel rather than fossil fuel. Improvement of photosynthetic carbon assimilation, using transgenic engineering, potentially provides a set of available and effective tools for enhancing plant carbon sequestration. In this review, firstly different biological methods of CO2 assimilation in C-3, C-4 and CAM plants are introduced and three types of C-4 pathways which have high photosynthetic performance and have evolved as CO2 pumps are briefly summarized. Then (i) the improvement of photosynthetic carbon assimilation of C-3 plants by transgenic engineering using non-C-4 genes, and (ii) the overexpression of individual or multiple C-4 cycle photosynthetic genes (PEPC, PPDK, PCK, NADP-ME and NADP-MDH) in transgenic C-3 plants (e. g. tobacco, potato, rice and Arabidopsis) are highlighted. Some transgenic C-3 plants (e. g. tobacco, rice and Arabidopsis) overexpressing the FBP/SBPase, ictB and cytochrome C-6 genes showed positive effects on photosynthetic efficiency and growth characteristics. However, over the last 28 years, efforts to overexpress individual, double or multiple C-4 enzymes in C-3 plants like tobacco, potato, rice, and Arabidopsis have produced mixed results that do not confirm or eliminate the possibility of improving photosynthesis of C-3 plants by this approach. Finally, a prospect is provided on the challenges of enhancing carbon assimilation of C-3 plants using transgenic engineering in the face of global warming, and the trends of the most promising approaches to improving the photosynthetic performance of C-3 plants.

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