Skip to Main Content

Title ImagePublic Abstract


DE-SC0018087: Fundamental Research Aimed at Diverting Excess Reducing Power in Photosynthesis to Orthogonal Metabolic Pathways

Award Status: Active
  • Institution: The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
  • DUNS: 003403953
  • Most Recent Award Date: 09/10/2023
  • Number of Support Periods: 6
  • PM: Herbert, Stephen
  • Current Budget Period: 08/15/2023 - 08/14/2024
  • Current Project Period: 08/15/2023 - 08/14/2024
  • PI: Silakov, Alexey
  • Supplement Budget Period: N/A

Public Abstract

Photosystems are incredible biological machines that use sunlight to drive the conversion of carbon dioxide to sugar. The amount of sunlight available for photosynthesis sometimes exceeds the amount of energy plants can use. This excess energy has to be safely dissipated through non-productive biological processes. The ultimate goal of this project is to understand whether we can utilize that otherwise unused excess energy. In our previous work, we showed that, in principle, it is possible to attach a catalyst to photosystem I and generate H2 using light. Our current strategy is to genetically fuse parts of the photosystem I complex with a recently discovered oxygen-tolerant [FeFe] hydrogenase. Our rationale is that such chimeric proteins may potentially result in the natural incorporation of the photosystem I-hydrogenase link using the inherent genetic machinery of the cell. In the past, we have verified that light-driven hydrogen production in this construct is possible, at least in vitro.

In the first thrust of this project, we take advantage of these constructs to investigate details of the coupling between photosystem I and a H2-producing enzyme called [FeFe] hydrogenase. This part of the project will reveal details of the electron transfer between photosystem I and the attached hydrogenase, providing information that can lead to new strategies for improved biological photocatalysis. In the second thrust of this project, we will research efficient and robust tethering of the [FeFe] hydrogenase to photosystem I in cyanobacteria. This work will highlight successful design strategies to guide the future development of photosynthetic biohybrids. Uncovering the principles governing the utilization of otherwise unusable energy will significantly further our understanding of cyanobacterial photosynthesis. The work proposed will establish the feasibility of diverting excess energy under high light conditions to orthogonal enzymatic pathways and set design rules for efficient utilization of such a strategy for scientific and industrial applications in biosensing, renewable energy, and high-value chemicals production. The work addresses the DOE-BES Photosynthetic Systems program goal to develop a multidimensional understanding of photosystems that would provide specific metrics that instruct strategies for improving biological photosynthesis and for guiding the future development of bioreactors and biomimetic energy systems.

Scroll to top