Plants trap carbon with the help of a key enzyme called RubisCO. To learn more about improving the efficiency of fixing carbon and of the photosynthetic process in general, researchers are studying cyanobacteria such as blue-green algae. At the DOE Joint Genome Institute, Structural Genomics Program head Cheryl Kerfeld and her colleagues have been collaborating with the Pasteur Culture Collection to build up genomic resources in cyanobacteria.
The project builds on the DOE JGI’s work to establish a Genomic Encyclopedia of Bacteria and Archaea but focuses on sequencing several dozen, phylogenetically diverse strains of cyanobacteria. To date, Kerfeld and her colleagues note in a paper published online October 23, 2012 in the Journal of Experimental Botany, the CyanoGEBA project has “more than doubled the amount of genomic information available for cyanobacteria, [increasing] our knowledge on the … occurrence and distribution of genes of interest.”
The data gathered will provide researchers with information on a wide range of genes that could be useful in understanding cyanobacterial carbon fixation and the role of the carboxysome, the organelle in which a key step in this process takes place, and energy production, and which could in turn be applied toward improving plant photosynthesis.
A video of DOE JGI’s Patrick Shih describing the CyanoGEBA project during the 2012 Annual Genomics of Energy & Environment Meeting is available at http://bit.ly/JGI7Shih.