Scheme: University Research Fellowship
Organisation: University of Liverpool
Dates: Oct 2013-Sep 2018
Summary: Luning Liu conducts pioneering research concerning the molecular basis of protein assembly and regulation of bacterial microcompartment. Cyanobacteria created and help to sustain our oxygenic atmosphere, and account for an estimated 20-30 % of current global carbon fixation. They enhance their carbon fixation using small compartments called carboxysomes. These internal biological “factories” are filled with key enzymes for carbon fixation, which are surrounded by a protein-based shell. In this project, he will use a unique microscopy technique, termed atomic force microscopy (AFM), to scan the shell surface. This will elucidate how the different shell proteins are packed to form a closed shell. Using genetic mutation to delete one group of shell proteins, he will focus on the function of the shell proteins in maintaining the shell structure. Using confocal microscope, he will examine the physiological changes of the locations and development of carboxysomes in the cell under different growth conditions. This project will lead to new knowledge of the carboxysomes. Profound understanding of carboxysome formation, function and regulation will reveal cellular strategies used by cyanobacteria in response to environmental stress, and help with engineering of carboxysomes for improved photosynthesis and carbon fixation. The knowledge and technology developed in this work will have broad applications across the whole field of bacterial microcompartments and cell physiology. There is currently emerging interest in the potential of photosynthetic microorganisms for food and energy production. The discoveries from this project will provide the toolbox for bioengineering of artificial biological “factories” for specific synthetic purposes, for example supercharging photosynthesis in chloroplasts of crop plants. Thus, the knowledge acquired from this work will have a profound impact, in translational terms, on global food and energy security.