Engineering plant Rubisco activase for thermal tolerance


Elizabete Carmo-Silva, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University

Drew Thomson, School of Chemistry, University of Glasgow

Brian Smith, School of Molecular Biosciences, University of Glasgow



Rubisco is a key protein in the photosynthetic pathway of plants. The activity of Rubisco is tightly regulated by the action of a number of other proteins, most notably Rubisco activase (Rca). At higher temperatures Rubisco activase ceases to function, limiting the productivity of important crop species. In a warming environment this has the potential to reduce crop yields.

This project will address this issue by engineering new variants of Rca that function at elevated temperatures, enabling the development of crops that can continue to grow in warmer climates. This project will use a combined experimental and computational approach to understand the molecular mechanisms that limit the effectiveness of Rca at elevated temperatures, and to therefore produce new variants that are heat-tolerant. During this project you will learn a wide range of contemporary methods for understanding how protein sequence relates to 3D structure, and therefore function. By applying these methods to the Rca/Rubisco system you will generate new understanding of how this vital protein system functions, and apply that understanding to engineer the system to work better in a changing environment. This project therefore offers both excellent scientific training and meaningful real-world impacts