Researchers from Arizona state University and Washington University have reported that they have sequenced the genome of the cyanobacteria Acaryochloris marina, which produces chlorophyll d enabling it to absorb near infrared long wavelength light (light invisible to the naked eye). The genome of Acaryochloris marine is 8.3 million base pairs long and is the largest of the 55 cynobacteria strains in the world. It is also the first chlorophyll d organism to be sequenced.
The researchers said that now the genome has been sequenced the immediate goal is to find the enzyme that causes a chemical structure change in chlorophyll d that differentiates it from other forms of chlorophyll. The synthesis of chlorophyll by an organism is a complex process that involves 17 steps. To make chlorophyll d an enzyme needs to transform a vinyl group to a formyl group near the end of the process. The researchers already have some candidate genes that they will test by inserting them into an organism that only makes chlorophyll a. If that organism is able to then synthesis chlorophyll d the gene responsible will have be isolated.
Once the responsible gene is found the scientific advance has applications in plant research. If the gene that causes the chemical transformation is inserted successfully into other plants or organisms it could mean an extra 5% increase in available light for the organism to use. Scientists also believe that harvesting solar power from genetically altered plant or organisms is not out of the question.
posted by Rachel