On the road to C4 rice: advances and perspectives

Maria Ermakova, Florence R. Danila, Robert T. Furbank, Susanne von Caemmerer*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    129 Citations (Scopus)


    The international C4 rice consortium aims to introduce into rice a high capacity photosynthetic mechanism, the C4 pathway, to increase yield. The C4 pathway is characterised by a complex combination of biochemical and anatomical specialisation that ensures high CO2 partial pressure at RuBisCO sites in bundle sheath (BS) cells. Here we report an update of the progress of the C4 rice project. Since its inception in 2008 there has been an exponential growth in synthetic biology and molecular tools. Golden Gate cloning and synthetic promoter systems have facilitated gene building block approaches allowing multiple enzymes and metabolite transporters to be assembled and expressed from single gene constructs. Photosynthetic functionalisation of the BS in rice remains an important step and there has been some success overexpressing transcription factors in the cytokinin signalling network which influence chloroplast volume. The C4 rice project has rejuvenated the research interest in C4 photosynthesis. Comparative anatomical studies now point to critical features essential for the design. So far little attention has been paid to the energetics. C4 photosynthesis has a greater ATP requirement, which is met by increased cyclic electron transport in BS cells. We hypothesise that changes in energy statues may drive this increased capacity for cyclic electron flow without the need for further modification. Although increasing vein density will ultimately be necessary for high efficiency C4 rice, our modelling shows that small amounts of C4 photosynthesis introduced around existing veins could already provide benefits of increased photosynthesis on the road to C4 rice.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)940-950
    Number of pages11
    JournalPlant Journal
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


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