Photorespiratory Bypass

In C3-type plants, like wheat, soybeans, and rice, the enzyme Rubisco fixes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into sugar during photosynthesis, but about 35 percent of the time Rubisco binds oxygen instead of carbon dioxide producing a plant-toxic carbon compound called glycolate. The plant makes the best of a bad situation by salvaging a portion of the carbon in glycolate by creating a compound that can be used in photosynthesis through a complex network of enzyme reactions in multiple organelles. This process, called photorespiration, recovers 75 percent of the carbon—but the plant expends a large amount of in this recovery process. Some bacteria have simpler pathways that require less energy. For this objective, RIPE is replacing the native pathway with these more efficient bacterial pathways and other novel synthetic pathways in order to make photosynthesis more efficient. This work has resulted in a 40 percent increase in crop productivity and was published in Science in 2019. Learn more in the video and articles below. 

Amanda Cavanagh
Yong-Su Jin
Donald Ort headshot
Paul South headshot
tobacco plants, irrigation line

Plant scientists have found a way to 'hack' photosynthesis. Here's why that's a big deal

If the preliminary research pans out, we may have a new way to feed the world's growing population.

By: Denise Chow | NBC News MACH

Person uses a machine called a LI-COR to measure photosynthesis on a plant.

Scientists have 'hacked photosynthesis' in search of more productive crops

There's a big molecule, a protein, inside the leaves of most plants. It's called Rubisco.

By: Dan Charles | National Public Radio (NPR)

A farmer harvests tobacco leaves at a plantation in the valley of Vinales, in the western Cuban province of Pinar del Rio, January 27, 2015. Picture taken January 27, 2015. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares

Breakthrough in plant engineering could boost productivity, feed millions more

The yield of many staple crops could be boosted by 40 percent by a new process that adjusts the way they turn sunlight into energy.

By: Thin Lei Win | Thomson Reuters Foundation

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.