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Synthetic Biology underpins advances in the bioeconomy

Biological systems - including the simplest cells - exhibit a broad range of functions to thrive in their environment. Research in the Imperial College Centre for Synthetic Biology is focused on the possibility of engineering the underlying biochemical processes to solve many of the challenges facing society, from healthcare to sustainable energy. In particular, we model, analyse, design and build biological and biochemical systems in living cells and/or in cell extracts, both exploring and enhancing the engineering potential of biology. 

As part of our research we develop novel methods to accelerate the celebrated Design-Build-Test-Learn synthetic biology cycle. As such research in the Centre for Synthetic Biology highly multi- and interdisciplinary covering computational modelling and machine learning approaches; automated platform development and genetic circuit engineering ; multi-cellular and multi-organismal interactions, including gene drive and genome engineering; metabolic engineering; in vitro/cell-free synthetic biology; engineered phages and directed evolution; and biomimetics, biomaterials and biological engineering.



BibTex format

author = {Trinugroho, J and Beková, M and Shao, S and Yu, J and Zhao, Z and Murray, JW and Sobotka, R and Komenda, J and Nixon, PJ},
doi = {10.1038/s41477-020-0616-4},
journal = {Nature Plants},
pages = {238--244},
title = {Chlorophyll f synthesis by a super-rogue photosystem II complex},
url = {},
volume = {6},
year = {2020}

RIS format (EndNote, RefMan)

AB - Certain cyanobacteria synthesize chlorophyll molecules (Chl d and Chl f) that absorb in the far-red region of the solar spectrum, thereby extending the spectral range of photosynthetically active radiation1,2. The synthesis and introduction of these far-red chlorophylls into the photosynthetic apparatus of plants might improve the efficiency of oxygenic photosynthesis, especially in far-red enriched environments, such as in the lower regions of the canopy3. Production of Chl f requires the ChlF subunit, also known as PsbA4 (ref. 4) or super-rogue D1 (ref. 5), a paralogue of the D1 subunit of photosystem II (PSII) which, together with D2, bind cofactors involved in the light-driven oxidation of water. Current ideas suggest that ChlF oxidizes Chl a to Chl f in a homodimeric ChlF reaction centre (RC) complex and represents a missing link in the evolution of the heterodimeric D1/D2 RC of PSII (refs. 4,6). However, unambiguous biochemical support for this proposal is lacking. Here, we show that ChlF can substitute for D1 to form modified PSII complexes capable of producing Chl f. Remarkably, mutation of just two residues in D1 converts oxygen-evolving PSII into a Chl f synthase. Overall, we have identified a new class of PSII complex, which we term ‘super-rogue’ PSII, with an unexpected role in pigment biosynthesis rather than water oxidation.
AU - Trinugroho,J
AU - Beková,M
AU - Shao,S
AU - Yu,J
AU - Zhao,Z
AU - Murray,JW
AU - Sobotka,R
AU - Komenda,J
AU - Nixon,PJ
DO - 10.1038/s41477-020-0616-4
EP - 244
PY - 2020///
SN - 2055-0278
SP - 238
TI - Chlorophyll f synthesis by a super-rogue photosystem II complex
T2 - Nature Plants
UR -
UR -
VL - 6
ER -