Although fairly unknown, the most important protein in the world today is Rubisco (RuBPCase). It is an enzyme (protein) that allows forming sugar molecules from carbon dioxide along with water. All the organic matter that exists on the planet is created by the ability of plants to create sugar through the use of light, a process known as photosynthesis.
Hundreds of millions of years ago, the atmosphere contained much more carbon dioxide and Rubisco was then optimized for this concentration. The protein worked so well, that the byproduct of photosynthesis, oxygen, began to accumulate in the atmosphere, and is the reason we can live on this star today. The more oxygen in the atmosphere, the less efficient Rubisco’s operation, which means that the sugar production process is less efficient today. But can we plan something better?
An article published recently in Science magazine states that researchers have succeeded in streamlining the process by introducing genetic engineered alternative metabolic pathways (GMOs), and thus increase photosynthesis efficiency by 40%.
These are amazing results with far-reaching consequences. In this way, plants grow faster, are bigger and the plants’ yield increase. The researchers were able to create the change in different plants such as rice, tomatoes and soybeans. Beyond increasing the ability to produce more food and feeding more of the growing human population, this result has further implications. The use of these plants may, perhaps, lower the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere and further prevention measures of global warming.