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J Exp Bot. 2003 Jan;54(381):179-89.

Molecular evolution and genetic engineering of C4 photosynthetic enzymes.

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Photosynthesis Laboratory, National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, Kannondai, Tsukuba 305-8602, Japan.


The majority of terrestrial plants, including many important crops such as rice, wheat, soybean, and potato, are classified as C(3) plants that assimilate atmospheric CO(2) directly through the C(3) photosynthetic pathway. C(4) plants, such as maize and sugarcane, evolved from C(3) plants, acquiring the C(4) photosynthetic pathway in addition to the C(3) pathway to achieve high photosynthetic performance and high water- and nitrogen-use efficiencies. Consequently, the transfer of C(4) traits to C(3) plants is one strategy being adopted for improving the photosynthetic performance of C(3) plants. The recent application of recombinant DNA technology has made considerable progress in the molecular engineering of photosynthetic genes in the past ten years. It has deepened understanding of the evolutionary scenario of the C(4) photosynthetic genes. The strategy, based on the evolutionary scenario, has enabled enzymes involved in the C(4) pathway to be expressed at high levels and in desired locations in the leaves of C(3) plants. Although overproduction of a single C(4) enzyme can alter the carbon metabolism of C(3) plants, it does not show any positive effects on photosynthesis. Transgenic C(3) plants overproducing multiple enzymes are now being produced for improving the photosynthetic performance of C(3) plants.

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