Michigan State University shows how some algae protect themselves when there’s too much oxygen

January 24, 2022 |

In Michigan, a new study from the Michigan State University Department of Energy Plant Research Laboratory shows how some algae can protect themselves when the oxygen they produce impairs their photosynthetic activity. The discovery also answers a long-standing question about how algae survive when CO2 levels are low.

The findings of this research were recently published in eLife.

In photosynthesis, plants and algae use solar energy to take carbon dioxide from the air and synthesize sugars. This process produces oxygen as a byproduct, which earth’s animals depend on to breathe. However, oxygen impairs the activity of key photosynthetic reactions. When algae are grown in dense ponds for bioenergy production, this becomes an obstacle.

When algal growth is increased, oxygen output from photosynthesis increases as well, which leads to an accumulation of oxygen in the culture. This exposure to excess oxygen is called hyperoxia.

What the researchers found not only shows how algae survive and ways to potentially make more efficient bioenergy crops, but it also answers a decades-long debate in relation to the induction of the Carbon Concentrating Mechanism (CCM) in algal cells.

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Category: Research

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