Rubisco small subunits from the unicellular green alga Chlamydomonas complement Rubisco-deficient mutants of Arabidopsis
Introducing components of algal carbon concentrating mechanisms (CCMs) into higher plant chloroplasts could increase photosynthetic productivity. A key component is the Rubisco-containing pyrenoid that is needed to minimise CO2 retro-diffusion for CCM operating efficiency. Rubisco in Arabidopsis was re-engineered to incorporate sequence elements that are thought to be essential for recruitment of Rubisco to the pyrenoid, namely the algal Rubisco small subunit (SSU, encoded by rbcS) or only the surface-exposed algal SSU α-helices. Leaves of Arabidopsis rbcs mutants expressing 'pyrenoid-competent' chimeric Arabidopsis SSUs containing the SSU α-helices from Chlamydomonas reinhardtii can form hybrid Rubisco complexes with catalytic properties similar to those of native Rubisco, suggesting that the α-helices are catalytically neutral. The growth and photosynthetic performance of complemented Arabidopsis rbcs mutants producing near wild-type levels of the hybrid Rubisco were similar to those of wild-type controls. Arabidopsis rbcs mutants expressing a Chlamydomonas SSU differed from wild-type plants with respect to Rubisco catalysis, photosynthesis and growth. This confirms a role for the SSU in influencing Rubisco catalytic properties.