A synthetic C4 shuttle via the β-hydroxyaspartate cycle in C3 plants.

Roell MS, Schada von Borzykowski L, Westhoff P, Plett A, Paczia N, Claus P, Urte S, Erb TJ, Weber APM.  Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 May 25;118(21):e2022307118. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2022307118.


Plants depend on the enzyme ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (Rubisco) for CO2 fixation. However, especially in C3 plants, photosynthetic yield is reduced by formation of 2-phosphoglycolate, a toxic oxygenation product of Rubisco, which needs to be recycled in a high-flux-demanding metabolic process called photorespiration. Canonical photorespiration dissipates energy and causes carbon and nitrogen losses. Reducing photorespiration through carbon-concentrating mechanisms, such as C4 photosynthesis, or bypassing photorespiration through metabolic engineering is expected to improve plant growth and yield. The β-hydroxyaspartate cycle (BHAC) is a recently described microbial pathway that converts glyoxylate, a metabolite of plant photorespiration, into oxaloacetate in a highly efficient carbon-, nitrogen-, and energy-conserving manner. Here, we engineered a functional BHAC in plant peroxisomes to create a photorespiratory bypass that is independent of 3-phosphoglycerate regeneration or decarboxylation of photorespiratory precursors. While efficient oxaloacetate conversion in Arabidopsis thaliana still masks the full potential of the BHAC, nitrogen conservation and accumulation of signature C4 metabolites demonstrate the proof of principle, opening the door to engineering a photorespiration-dependent synthetic carbon-concentrating mechanism in C3 plants.