Biosystems Design to Accelerate C3-to-CAM Progression

Guoliang Yuan, Mahmudul Hassan, Degao Liu, Sung Don Lim, Won Cheol Yim, John C. Cushman, Kasey Markel, Patrick M. Shih, Haiwei Lu, David J. Weston, Jin Gui Chen, Timothy J. Tschaplinski, Gerald A. Tuskan, Xiaohan Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Global demand for food and bioenergy production has increased rapidly, while the area of arable land has been declining for decades due to damage caused by erosion, pollution, sea level rise, urban development, soil salinization, and water scarcity driven by global climate change. In order to overcome this conflict, there is an urgent need to adapt conventional agriculture to water-limited and hotter conditions with plant crop systems that display higher water-use efficiency (WUE). Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) species have substantially higher WUE than species performing C3 or C4 photosynthesis. CAM plants are derived from C3 photosynthesis ancestors. However, it is extremely unlikely that the C3 or C4 crop plants would evolve rapidly into CAM photosynthesis without human intervention. Currently, there is growing interest in improving WUE through transferring CAM into C3 crops. However, engineering a major metabolic plant pathway, like CAM, is challenging and requires a comprehensive deep understanding of the enzymatic reactions and regulatory networks in both C3 and CAM photosynthesis, as well as overcoming physiometabolic limitations such as diurnal stomatal regulation. Recent advances in CAM evolutionary genomics research, genome editing, and synthetic biology have increased the likelihood of successful acceleration of C3-to-CAM progression. Here, we first summarize the systems biology-level understanding of the molecular processes in the CAM pathway. Then, we review the principles of CAM engineering in an evolutionary context. Lastly, we discuss the technical approaches to accelerate the C3-to-CAM transition in plants using synthetic biology toolboxes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3686791
JournalBioDesign Research
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Center for Bioenergy Innovation (CBI), a U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Research Center supported by the Office of Science Biological and Environmental Research (BER). The writing of this manuscript was also supported by the Department of Energy (Office of Science, Genomic Science Program) under award number DE-SC0008834. SDL acknowledges support from the Basic Science Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Education (NRF-2019R1I1A1A01061727). DL acknowledges financial support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) under Award Number 1833402. KM acknowledges support from start-up funding provided by the University of California, Davis. PMS acknowledges support from the Department of Energy (DE-AC02-05CH11231).

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2020 Guoliang Yuan et al.


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