Szeged researchers were the first to characterize the phosphate transport protein of green algae

By: STA Date: 2023. 11. 28. 10:30

The staff of the Szeged Biological Research Center belonging to the Hungarian Research Network were the first to characterize a phosphate transport protein found in green algae, the result may contribute to the future biotechnological application of microalgae, the research institute announced on its website on Tuesday.

(Photo: Pixabay)

Phosphorus plays a vital role in the living world, it is found in nucleic acids and phospholipids, but it is also involved in signaling processes and photosynthesis. Plants obtain phosphorus by absorbing inorganic phosphate in the soil, which is often present in a bound form, thus hindering plant development. Nowadays, artificial fertilization is used to solve this problem, which improves the quality of agricultural land, but the release of excess phosphate into groundwater damages the aquatic ecosystem and can lead to algal growth – eutrophication – among other things.

Aquatic microalgae can help recover phosphorus and use it as a nutrient for plant growth

However, the exact mechanism of phosphate uptake and transport in plants is not yet known in detail. The results achieved by Zita Szilvia Tóth and her group together with researchers from the University of Edinburgh, the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology and Princeton University, which were presented in the journal Plant Physiology, may bring specialists closer to the solution. Szeged researchers have discovered a new transport protein that transports phosphate to the chloroplasts – the site of photosynthesis. During their research, they found that this transporter, called CrPHT4-7, plays an important role in the photosynthesis, growth and survival of green algae. For the functional characterization of the transporter protein, the green alga model Chlamydomonas reinhardtii with CrPHT4-7 mutant and the yeast strain Saccharomyces cerevisiae lacking a phosphate transporter were used. Since this transporter shows a high degree of similarity with a transport protein found in the cruciferous cabbage (Arabidopsis thaliana), which transports ascorbate – the salt of ascorbic acid, vitamin C -, the ascorbate transport activity of the transporter was determined in addition to phosphate. The research yielded a surprising result: CrPHT4-7 transports phosphate, but not ascorbate, to the chloroplasts. With this, the research group was the first to characterize in detail a phosphate transporter protein found in green algae, which may contribute to the future biotechnological application of microalgae. Among other things, by increasing the expression of CrPHT4-7, it may become possible to increase the biomass and phosphate content of microalgae and to use them as nutrients.


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