About Associate Professor Min Chen
A/Prof Chen is fascinated with expanding the spectrum of light that can drive oxygenic photosynthesis.
A/Prof Chen is a molecular biologist and biochemist who studies the mechanism of photosynthesis in marine cyanobacteria, as well as experimental bioinformatics.
A/Prof Min Chen completed her BSc and M Sc degrees at the North-East Normal University in China and Her PhD degree in the University of Sydney. She has been awarded an Australian Postdoctoral Research Fellow (2004-2006) and QEII Fellow (2008-). She has been appointed as an Associate Professor in the School of Biological Science since March, 2011. The focus of her research is the molecular mechanism of photosynthesis driven by red-shifted chlorophylls, biosynthetic pathway of those chlorophylls and their photo-regulatory mechanisms. The important outcomes of her research include:
Discovery of the most-red-shifted chlorophyll, chlorophyll f to date
In 2010, A/Prof Chen led a team of scientists from different disciplines who discovered the fifth form of chlorophyll, Chl f. This highly significant advance is underlined by the fact that this is, to date, the most red-shifted chlorophyll involved in oxygenic photosynthesis. The existence of chlorophyll f, with a maximum absorption of 706 nm in vitro, suggests that oxygenic photosynthesis can be extended even further into the infrared region, which may open up associated bioenergy applications.
Determine the new type of enzyme involved in chlorophyll biosynthesis
Our work reveals the genes whose products can convert Chl a into Chl d. If Chl d can be inserted into higher plants, it may have potential applications in increasing photosynthetic capacity by absorbing and using additional regions of the solar spectrum that are not naturally utilised by plants. By extending coverage of the solar spectrum from the 700 nm (the maximum wavelength absorbed by plants) to 750 nm (the maximum for Chl d), This advance not only has potential applications in biotechnology, but has implications for understanding the functions and mechanisms of the enzymes; the discovery was approved for a US Provision Patent Application (61/346743) in May 2010.
Chlorophyll-binding protein complexes
The identification of multi-light-harvesting proteins and their encoded genes has demonstrated their pervasive adaptation to photosynthesis under low-light conditions. Further studies on the energy-storing reactions driven by Chl d determined the involvement of chl-binding protein complexes and reveal the ways in which Chl d has evolved to replace Chl a in Acaryochloris.
Ecological adaptation of Chl d and its containing organisms
Chl d and the organisms that contain Chl d occur throughout environments in which infra-red light is predominant, and may play a key role in oceanic food chains in such unique environments. Using this hypothesis, we revealed new environmental niches of Chl d and its containing organisms.
A/Prof Chen collaborates extensively, especially with A/Prof Willows (Macquarie University), Prof Blankenship (Washington University in St Louis), Prof Imre Vass (Biological Research Centre of the Hungary Academy of Sciences) and Prof Wolfgang Hess (Freiburg University).
- Chen M and Blankenship RB (2011) Expanding the solar spectrum used by photosynthesis, Trends in Plant Science (accepted on March 11, 2011). http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tplants.2011.03.011 PMID unknown
- Chen M, Schliep M, Willows R, Cai Z-L, Neilan BA and Scheer H (2010) A red-shifted chlorophyll, Science 329:1718-1719; published online 19 August 2010. http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1191127 PMID: 20724585
- Schliep M, Crossett B, Willows RD and Chen M (2010) 18O-labelling of chlorophyll d in acaryochloris marina reveal chlorophyll a and molecular oxygen are precursors, J. Bio. Chem. 285:28450-28456. http://dx.doi.org/jbc.M110.146753 PMID: 20610399
- Chen M, Floetenmeyer M and Bibby TS (2009) Supramolecular organization of phycobiliproteins in the chlorophyll d-containing cyanobacterium Acaryochloris marina, FEBS Lett. 583: 2535-2539. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.febslet.2009.07.012 PMID: 19596002
- Swingley WD, Chen M, Cheung PC, et al (25 co-authors) (2008) Genome expansion in the chlorophyll d-producing cyanobacterium Acaryochloris marina, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 105:2005-2010. http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0709772105 PMID: 18252824
- Chen M, Hiller RG, Howe CJ and Larkum AWD (2005) Unique origin and lateral transfer of prokaryotic chlorophyll-b and chlorophyll d light-harvesting systems, Mol. Biol. Evol. 22:21-28. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/molbev/msh250 PMID: 15356274
- Chen M, Eggink L, Hoober JK and Larkum AWD (2005) Influence of structure on binding of chlorophylls to peptide ligands, J. Amer. Chem. Soc. 127:2052-2053. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/ja043462b PMID: 15713076
- Chen M, Bibby TS, Nield J, Larkum AWD and Barber J (2005) Iron deficiency induces a chlorophyll d-binding Pcb antenna system around Photosystem I in Acaryochloris marina, Biochim. Biophys. Acta-Bioenergetics 1708:367–374. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbabio.2005.05.007 PMID: 15975547
- Bibby TS, Nield J, Chen M, Larkum AWD and Barber J (2003) Structure of a photosystem II supercomplex isolated from Prochloron didemni retaining its chlorophyll a/b light harvesting system, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 100:9050-9054. http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1532271100 PMID: 12837938
- Chen M, Quinnell RG and Larkum AWD (2002) The major light-harvesting pigment protein of Acaryochloris marina, FEBS Lett. 514:149-152. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0014-5793(02)02315-3 PMID: 11943141