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BER Research Highlights

Novel Bacterial Clade Reveals Origin of Form I Rubisco
Published: August 31, 2020
Posted: August 06, 2021


  • All plant biomass is sourced from the carbon-fixing enzyme Rubisco.
  • Although there is significant interest in engineering Rubisco to improve overall plant productivity, there has been little progress in the field.
  • All plants contain Form I Rubisco, and all Form I Rubisco consist of both eight Large (RbcL) and eight Small (RbcS) subunits. No Form I Rubisco has previously been discovered to lack the small subunit, which would represent a key transition in Rubisco evolution.
  • Understanding how Rubisco evolved may provide unique insight into engineering Rubisco.


  • Used metagenomics to discover a previously uncharacterized clade of Rubisco that is the sister clade to Form I Rubisco, that the researchers named Form I’.
  • Synthesized, expressed, purified, and biochemically characterized the novel enzyme.
  • Solved solution state and crystal structure of novel Form I’ Rubisco.


  • Structural insight into how Form I Rubisco evolved will provide the basis for engineering Rubisco in bioenergy crops.
  • Demonstration of the utility of metagenomics to discover novel families of enzymes.

Banda, D.M. et al. “Novel bacterial clade reveals origin of form I Rubisco.” Nature Plants 6, 1158–1166 (2020). [DOI:10.1038/s41477-020-00762-4]

Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Genomic Analysis and Systems Biology
  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities
  • Research Area: Plant Systems and Feedstocks, Plant-Microbe Interactions
  • Research Area: DOE Bioenergy Research Centers (BRC)
  • Research Area: Biosystems Design

Division: SC-33.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER


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