Photorespiratory Bypass

Rubisco is the main enzyme that is responsible for capturing carbon dioxide and turning it into sugars for the plant. Turns out, that while Rubisco is one of the most vital components of photosynthesis—t’s not very good at its job in most crops, such as cowpeas, soybeans and rice. About 35 percent of the time, Rubisco tries to fix oxygen instead of carbon dioxide. This error produces a carbon compound called glycolate that the plant must recycle to salvage a portion of the carbon to use in photosynthesis. 

This recovery process, however, costs the plant a large amount of energy. By creating a shorter pathway, this recovery process requires less energy,  conserving resources that the plant can invest to increase productivity by as much as 40 percent, according to work published in Science in 2019.

Doug Allen
Kwangryul Baek
Ryan Boyd
Amanda Cavanagh
Yong-Su Jin
Donald Ort headshot
Sam Stutz
sun, sky, wheat

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Screenshot from France24 news segment.

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Two scientists measure photosynthesis.

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Three researchers stand in field trial.

Scientists engineer shortcut for photosynthetic glitch, boost crop growth by 40 percent

The RIPE project has engineered a shortcut for photorespiration—an energy-expensive process—and increased crop productivity by 40 percent.


Newly characterized protein has potential to save U.S. farmers millions annually

Instead of turning carbon into food, many plants accidentally make a plant-toxic compound during photosynthesis that is recycled through a process called photorespiration. University of Illinois and USDA/ ARS researchers report in Plant Cell the discovery of a key protein in this process, which they hope to manipulate to increase plant productivity.