Approximately one-third of the Earth’s photosynthetic CO 2 assimilation occurs in a pyrenoid, an organelle containing the CO 2 -fixing enzyme Rubisco. How constituent proteins are recruited to the pyrenoid and how the organelle’s subcompartments—membrane tubules, a surrounding phase-separated Rubisco matrix, and a peripheral starch sheath—are held together is unknown. Using the model alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii , we found that pyrenoid proteins share a sequence motif. We show that the motif is necessary and sufficient to target proteins to the pyrenoid and that the motif binds to Rubisco, suggesting a mechanism for targeting. The presence of the Rubisco-binding motif on proteins that localize to the tubules and on proteins that localize to the matrix–starch sheath interface suggests that the motif holds the pyrenoid’s three subcompartments together. Our findings advance our understanding of pyrenoid biogenesis and illustrate how a single protein motif can underlie the architecture of a complex multilayered phase-separated organelle.
This content will become publicly available on May 19, 2023
Modelling the pyrenoid-based CO2-concentrating mechanism provides insights into its operating principles and a roadmap for its engineering into crops
Many eukaryotic photosynthetic organisms enhance their carbon uptake by supplying concentrated CO2 to the CO2-fixing enzyme Rubisco in an organelle called the pyrenoid. Ongoing efforts seek to engineer this pyrenoid-based CO2-concentrating mechanism (PCCM) into crops to increase yields. Here we develop a computational model for a PCCM on the basis of the postulated mechanism in the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Our model recapitulates all Chlamydomonas PCCM-deficient mutant phenotypes and yields general biophysical principles underlying the PCCM. We show that an effective and energetically efficient PCCM requires a physical barrier to reduce pyrenoid CO2 leakage, as well as proper enzyme localization to reduce futile cycling between CO2 and HCO3−. Importantly, our model demonstrates the feasibility of a purely passive CO2 uptake strategy at air-level CO2, while active HCO3− uptake proves advantageous at lower CO2 levels. We propose a four-step engineering path to increase the rate of CO2 fixation in the plant chloroplast up to threefold at a theoretical cost of only 1.3 ATP per CO2 fixed, thereby offering a framework to guide the engineering of a PCCM into land plants.
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