Engineering artificial photosynthetic life-forms through endosymbiosis

Jason E. Cournoyer, Sarah D. Altman, Yang-le Gao, Catherine L. Wallace, Dianwen Zhang, Guo-Hsuen Lo, Noah T. Haskin, Angad P. Mehta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The evolutionary origin of the photosynthetic eukaryotes drastically altered the evolution of complex lifeforms and impacted global ecology. The endosymbiotic theory suggests that photosynthetic eukaryotes evolved due to endosymbiosis between non-photosynthetic eukaryotic host cells and photosynthetic cyanobacterial or algal endosymbionts. The photosynthetic endosymbionts, propagating within the cytoplasm of the host cells, evolved, and eventually transformed into chloroplasts. Despite the fundamental importance of this evolutionary event, we have minimal understanding of this remarkable evolutionary transformation. Here, we design and engineer artificial, genetically tractable, photosynthetic endosymbiosis between photosynthetic cyanobacteria and budding yeasts. We engineer various mutants of model photosynthetic cyanobacteria as endosymbionts within yeast cells where, the engineered cyanobacteria perform bioenergetic functions to support the growth of yeast cells under defined photosynthetic conditions. We anticipate that these genetically tractable endosymbiotic platforms can be used for evolutionary studies, particularly related to organelle evolution, and also for synthetic biology applications.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2254
Pages (from-to)2254
Number of pages1
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
Early online dateApr 26 2022
StatePublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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