Recording chlorophyll fluorescence in Arabidopsis leaves
Photo: C. Spetea Wiklund

Uncovering ion transporters important for photosynthetic function

Research project
Active research
Project size
3.870.000 VR + 822.000 CTS = 4.690.000 SEK
Project period
2021 - 2025
Project owner
Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences

Short description

In natural habitats, plants and algae constantly experience rapid changes in the intensity of sunlight. This research project is dedicated to understand how photosynthesis is regulated in variable light by ion channels and transporters. We use Arabidopsis thaliana and Chlamydomonas reinhardtii as model organisms to study the phenotype of loss-of-function mutants using chlorophyll fluorescence, electron microscopy and molecular biology methods. Our findings will allow unravelling novel mechanisms of photosynthetic regulation at molecular and physiological levels, which are important for light acclimation in crop fields and bioenergy production

More about the project

The overall objective is to identify chloroplast ion transporters involved in the regulation of photosynthesis in plants and microalgae. Research on this topic is important because photosynthetic function is tightly coupled with growth, and we need to understand how photosynthetic components are integrated to operate in a dynamic environment. Ions (H+, K+, Cl, Pi, Mg2+, Ca2+) regulate photosynthesis since the involved protein machinery has strict requirements for pH and ion balance. 

An increasing number of genes involved in chloroplast ion transport has been unravelled in plants, and only a few homologous algal genes have been studied thus far. In the proposed work we aim: a) to identify Mg2+ transporters regulating photosynthetic efficiency in plants; b) to determine how expression of K+ and Cl transporter genes regulate plant acclimation to fluctuating light; c) to identify the algal genes involved in chloroplast Cl, Pi, K+ and Mg2+ fluxes. We will use Arabidopsis thaliana and Chlamydomonas reinhardtii as model organisms to study the intracellular location, gene expression, heterologous expression and the photosynthetic phenotype of loss-of-function mutants using chlorophyll fluorescence, electrochromic shift and state-of-the-art electron microscopy. 

With such knowledge, we hope to achieve an understanding of how to use ion transporters to improve the energy efficiency of photosynthesis in engineered crop plants and microalgae.

Portable device for photosynthetic measurements
Photo: C. Spetea Wiklund


Cornelia Spetea Wiklund, professor
Emilija Dukic, PhD student
Kashif Mohd Shaikh, post-doc