H2020TRL 3Agriculture

Future Agriculture

Transforming the future of agriculture through synthetic photorespiration

Project details

GA Number





€4.8 m


1 January 2016


5 years

Transforming the future of agriculture through synthetic photorespiration

Agriculture productivity must be significantly improved for a new green revolution to feed our continually increasing population. Photorespiration represents a challenge in this respect because it dissipates energy and leads to the futile loss of CO2, thereby limiting plant growth yield. Implementing an efficient metabolic bypass for photorespiration can increase many cultivated crops' photosynthetic efficiency. Several such routes were previously proposed. However, these routes were limited to existing enzymes and pathways and provided only partial improvement. Here, we offer a radically different approach: to engineer entirely novel CO2-neutral or CO2-positive photorespiration bypasses based on novel enzyme chemistry that supports significantly higher agricultural yields. These bypass routes could support a 60% higher biomass yield per turn of the Calvin Cycle and >30% higher yield per ATP. Our project innovatively integrates research disciplines and combines academic research with industrial implementation. In silico studies will integrate biochemical logic and pathway modelling to explore all possible photorespiration pathways and identify the most efficient routes. In vitro research will establish novel enzyme functions via enzyme engineering and directed evolution. Full pathways will be reconstituted and optimized in vitro using a novel mass spectrometry-based platform. High in vivo activity will be selected by implementing the pathways in engineered E. coli strains. Enhanced photosynthetic efficiency will be demonstrated in cyanobacteria expressing the synthetic pathways. Finally, the most promising synthetic pathways will be implemented in higher plants, and growth phenotypes will be monitored. The proposed project comprises a significant advance in synthetic biology – applying biochemical principles to modify the core of carbon metabolism with synthetic pathways that carry multiple novel enzymatic functions.


Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften e. V.INsocietyImperial College of Science, Technology and MedicineWeizmann Institute of ScienceEvogene Ltd.

Our role

What we did to make this project TRULY INNOVATIVE.

Plan all the exploitation, communication and dissemination activities for the project, including taking care of the project follow-up via a Transition grant (see Crop4Clima)


Our design should be able to improve photosynthetic yield by up to 30 %. This just goes to show what science can accomplish when Europe’s best researchers work together and benefit from the EU’s excellent funding mechanisms.

Tobias Erb, MPI Marburg