John Schafer
Year: 2014
Faculty Advisor: David Stern

Finding genes involved with biogenesis of Rubisco through the process of forward genetics in Setaria viridis and reverse genetics in Arabidopsis thaliana

Project Summary

Due to present day high atmospheric concentrations of O2, the enzyme Rubisco is inefficient in some plant photosystems.  The C3 photosystem requires plants to make high quantities of Rubisco in order to perform photosynthesis.  One consequence of producing so much Rubisco is that plants then require large amounts of nitrogen.  C4 plants, however, are able to survive with less of the enzyme because of the higher efficiency of Rubisco in the absence of O2.  If researchers can discover how to insert into genes that allow C4 plants to maintain this efficiency, or genes that allow Rubisco to function more efficiently in the presence of oxygen, into many C3 food crops, this could begin a second Green Revolution and feed a growing world population. With less Rubisco required for photosynthesis, plants would also require less nitrogen (an expensive nutrient used in global agriculture).  This could lead to lower production costs, and eventually increase  the supply of food crops.  However, the progress in genetically modifying the genes to improve photosynthetic efficiency is contingent upon further research on the manufacturing of Rubisco.


My Experience

My summer experience at BTI was very valuable.  I learned many important lab and research skills that I hope to use in the future.  In high school, there are very few opportunities to experience a true research setting, and I was glad to be able to conduct research in the lab every day.  It provided with insight into what  I might  study in the future.  I would like to thank all those in the Stern lab for their support, especially my mentor, Dr. Leila Feiz.