Australian Journal of Botany Australian Journal of Botany Society
Southern hemisphere botanical ecosystems

Rubisco: Maladapted or Misunderstood

MK Morell, K Paul, HJ Kane and TJ Andrews

Australian Journal of Botany 40(5) 431 - 441
Published: 1992


Life depends on a single enzyme, D-ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase-oxygenase (Rubisco), for the acquisition of essentially all of its carbon. Applying Darwinian principles, one would expect this enzyme to have been rigorously selected for speed and accuracy, and it is a surprise to discover that, even in its most highly developed forms, it is both slow and confused. This review looks for clues about the causes of Rubisco's slow evolutionary refinement in its complex catalytic chemistry and in its tendency to catalyse abortive side reactions. We assess the possibilities for improving Rubisco artificially, either by random mutagenesis or by rational design, and imagine the consequences of an improved Rubisco for plant productivity and the global ecosystem.

© CSIRO 1992

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