Prof. Martin Spalding awarded DOE funding for microalgae research

August 4, 2012

Martin Spalding
Prof. Martin Spalding

Dr. Marty Spalding, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Associate Dean and Professor in GDCB, has received a three-year sponsored grant award of $510,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy for his research project entitled, Structure/Function of the Novel Proteins LCIB and LCIC in the Chlamydomonas CCM.

LCIB, a novel protein of unknown function, is an essential component of the CO2-concentrating mechanism (CCM) required by microalgae to grow in environments where inorganic carbon (Ci; CO2 and HCO3-) levels are at or below air equilibration levels of CO2 (~0.04%). Microalgae, together with cyanobacteria are responsible for approximately half of the earth’s primary photosynthetic productivity and are increasingly attractive as platforms for production of renewable bioproducts, including biofuels, but our understanding of the functional components and the detailed mechanisms comprising the microalgal CCMs, including the specific nature of LCIB’s critical role in the CCM, still is limited. Dr. Spalding’s research team’s recent discovery that co-over-expression of LCIB and a putative CCM-active, Ci transporter, LCIA, provides an enormous boost in photosynthetic CO2 assimilation under CO2 enrichment conditions only adds to the urgency demanding that we understand the function of this novel and mysterious protein. This project hypothesis is that LCIB participates with the very similar protein LCIC in a multimeric complex that traps stromal CO2 and converts it vectorially into stromal HCO3-, and this funding will allow Dr. Spalding’s research group to test this hypothesis and further explore the function of this protein.

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