Sunday, April 21, 2024

Gene discovered in ocean algae may help increase food production on land.

 Scientists at UC Riverside in California recently discovered a gene that codes for the production of a chlorophyll specific to marine algae and kelp.  Chlorophyll c is able to absorb wavelengths of light that penetrate deeper into the ocean.  Specifically blue-green light.  This adaption evolved from the need for more light absorbance since the ocean absorbs red light, which is more available to land plants.  Chlorophyll c helps algae to thrive in the ocean.  Terrestrial plants can only produce chlorophylls a and b, however the study demonstrated that tobacco, a land plant, could be genetically modified to produce chlorophyll c.  This alteration could allow for land plants to absorb a broader range light and increase productivity.  This has good implications for dealing with food scarcity and producing biofuel.

This article reminds me of one of the exercises we did in lab, and that was inserting the GFP gene from jellyfish into a DNA plasmid in E. coli. I wonder if inserting the chlorophyll c gene from algae into tobacco utilizes the same methods.  This article never outright said it, but the main point was that they potentially found a way to make better GMO's.  I don't know a lot about GMO's, but in the secondary article linked below, I read that their most common commercial use is in farmed plants.  Typically GMOs in the produce section have selected traits that increase their shelf life, make them more resistant to pests and diseases, and make them taste better.  The chlorophyll c gene may help land plants absorb more light and that would help increase crop yield.  However in the study they've only found that it can inserted into tobacco.  So we'll have to wait and see if it can be inserted into more plants.


Main article:

GMO Article:


  1. I totally agree with you on the fact that this study is reminiscent of the GFP gene lab we did! The topic of genetic modification to allow for better light absorption is such a fascinating one. I wonder if studies and experiments like this would be beneficial on locations where the atmosphere does not allow for super effective light penetration (such as urban areas with high levels of air pollution/smog). A very interesting topic to think about, especially as pollution levels continue unbridled in certain countries.

  2. Very interesting article, Olivia! It never crossed my mind that aquatic plants could produce different types of chlorophyll than land plants, but now that they've said it I can see that totally makes sense. It's certainly interesting to see that they can genetically modify tobacco to produce the different chlorophyll. I definitely hope they can extend it to crops outside of tobacco, as I don't think we're in need of more tobacco as a society. Being able to grow more food more efficiently in places of food scarcity is an absolute necessity, though, that I hope they'll be able to achieve. Thank you for sharing!