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DOI: 10.1007/s11120-023-01024-y

Transgenic strategies to improve the thermotolerance of photosynthesis

Amanda Cavanagh & Don Ort


Warming driven by the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is irreversible over at least the next century, unless practical technologies are rapidly developed and deployed at scale to remove and sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Accepting this reality highlights the central importance for crop agriculture to develop adaptation strategies for a warmer future. While nearly all processes in plants are impacted by above optimum temperatures, the impact of heat stress on photosynthetic processes stand out for their centrality. Here, we review transgenic strategies that show promise in improving the high-temperature tolerance of specific subprocesses of photosynthesis and in some cases have already been shown in proof of concept in field experiments to protect yield from high temperature-induced losses. We also highlight other manipulations to photosynthetic processes for which full proof of concept is still lacking but we contend warrant further attention. Warming that has already occurred over the past several decades has had detrimental impacts on crop production in many parts of the world. Declining productivity presages a rapidly developing global crisis in food security particularly in low income countries. Transgenic manipulation of photosynthesis to engineer greater high-temperature resilience holds encouraging promise to help meet this challenge.

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