A recent study by Princeton University scientists has unlocked a new path towards understanding the mechanisms of photosynthesis. A team of researchers led by Martin Jonikas, an assistant professor of molecular biology, recently constructed a public “library” using 62,000-plus strains of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii — or Chlamy for short — with single mutations as the “books”. Chlamy is a single-celled, pond-dwelling algal life-form with a rapid growth rate and is the first single-celled photosynthetic organism to be studied for such a “library”. The project commenced in 2010 and took nine years to complete due to the complicated nature of Chlamy’s genome.
By exposing thousands of mutant Chlamy strains to a particular treatment, scientists can identify the gene responsible for a specific task. Investigators are currently studying Chlamy strains placed under sunlight to discover the genes involved in photosynthesis. Jonikas hopes that this library will propel developments in plant genetic engineering, such as making plants grow faster or absorb more carbon dioxide, as well as in other areas of plant biology.