Williams College biologist explores photosynthetic apparatus

The National Science Foundation has announced the award of $263,274 to Williams College biologist Claire Ting. It will support her work in exploring the structure, function and evolution of the photosynthetic apparatus in one of the most important marine primary producers of the world.

Her project is titled "Photosynthetic Response to Abiotic Stress in Prochlorococcus, a Globally Important Marine Cyanobacterium." It addresses the remarkable differences in genomes of several Prochlorococcus strains and the implications of these differences for photosynthesis and acclimation to environmental stress.

"These differences have evolved in response to selection pressures in the ocean environment," she explained. "The Prochlorococcus MED4 strain, for instance, has been found to be missing several genes encoding proteins associated with the biological apparatus crucial to photosynthesis and proteins that are critical in the acclimation response to specific environmental stresses."

Ting's goal is to determine how genomic differences become advantages in the capacity for photosynthesis of cyanobacteria under certain environmental conditions. She will also examine the molecular responses and mechanisms triggered by changes in environmental factors, such as light and temperature. It is critical in the context of potential global climate changes to understand the effects of temperature on the photosynthetic capabilities of this ecologically important marine cyanobacterium.

She hopes that the project will lead to a marked improvement in the ability to accurately model primary production in ocean ecosystems, as well as to a better understanding of the mechanics and evolution of photosynthesis.

The project will involve a number of undergraduate students in scientific research. Students participating in this project will become familiar with state-of-the-art technology used in this field of study and have a chance to participat

Contact: Jo Procter
Williams College

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