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Sujith Puthiyaveetil

Biochemistry 

  • Assistant Professor of Biochemistry
765.494.8339
BCHM Room 305A

Area of Expertise: Genetic and molecular control of photosynthetic light utilization 

The properties of light baffle even the smartest physicist. Born in the nuclear fusion reactions of the sun and behaving as both a particle and wave simultaneously, light travels through space and reaches earth. Plants, algae, and certain bacteria tap into this mysterious source of energy through the process of photosynthesis to power themselves and others who depend on them for energy. Light photons in the visible range pack enough punch to knock electrons off chlorophyll molecules and set the electron transport reactions of photosynthesis in motion, which convert light energy into usable chemical energy. The high energy molecules formed during the light reactions are expended in the carbon fixation reactions of photosynthesis, which convert carbon dioxide into carbohydrates. Complex life on earth is the exploit of this remarkable chemical reaction.

Seemingly abundant for photosynthesis, sunlight however varies profoundly in its quality and quantity on a timescale of seconds to seasons. This heterogeneity in the supply of light poses particular challenges for the photosynthetic machinery. Our laboratory studies the genetic and molecular control mechanisms plants and algae employ, under some conditions, to make use of every photon that is available for photosynthesis, whilst in others to protect the photosynthetic machinery from excess light. Of particular interest is the function and evolution of an ancient gene regulatory circuit known as the chloroplast two-component system. In plants and green algae, the chloroplast two-component system has been rewired in evolution to assume new functional roles and signaling properties. A complete understanding of modified and canonical chloroplast two-component systems will reveal the crucial link between photosynthesis, gene expression, and the biogenesis of electron transport complexes.

In plants and green algae, a pair of conserved serine/threonine protein kinases phosphorylate photosystem II (PS II), the water-splitting photosystem of oxygenic photosynthesis, in a light quality and quantity-dependent manner. One substrate of PS II protein kinases is Light Harvesting Complex II (LHC II), the most prolific light harvesting antenna protein on earth. LHC II phosphorylation redistributes absorbed excitation energy between the two photosystems through a remarkable light quality acclimatory response known as state transitions. The phosphorylation of PS II core proteins facilitates the turnover of damaged photosystems through PS II repair cycle, one of the most efficient protein repair mechanism found in nature. A major goal of our laboratory is to understand the precise regulatory and functional mechanisms by which PS II protein kinase drive state transitions and PS II repair cycle. We use the model higher plant Arabidopsis thaliana and the model diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum as experimental systems, employing biochemical, biophysical, and functional genomics tools.   

Selected Publications

Puthiyaveetil, S., Kavanagh, T. A., Cain, P., Sullivan, J. A., Newell , C. A., Gray, J. C., . . . Allen, J. F. (2008). The ancestral symbiont sensor kinase CSK links photosynthesis with gene expression in chloroplasts. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 105, 10061-10066.

Puthiyaveetil, S., & Allen, J. F. (2009). Chloroplast two-component systems: evolution of the link between photosynthesis and gene expression. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 276(1665), 2133-2145.

Puthiyaveetil, S., Ibrahim, I. M., Jelicic, B., Tomašic, A., Fulgosi, H., & Allen, J. F. (2010). Transcriptional control of photosynthesis genes: the evolutionarily conserved regulatory mechanism in plastid genome function. Genome Biology and Evolution, 2, 888-896.

Puthiyaveetil, S. (2011). A mechanism for regulation of chloroplast LHC II kinase by plastoquinol and thioredoxin. FEBS Letters, 585, 1717-1721.

Puthiyaveetil, S., Ibrahim, I. M., & Allen, J. F. (2012). Oxidation-reduction signalling components in regulatory pathways of state transitions and photosystem stoichiometry adjustment in chloroplasts. Plant, Cell & Environment, 35, 347-359.

Puthiyaveetil, S., Ibrahim, I. M., & Allen, J. F. (2013). Evolutionary rewiring: a modified prokaryotic gene regulatory pathway in chloroplasts. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 368, 1622.

Puthiyaveetil, S., Tsabari, O., Lowry, T., Lenhert, S., Lewis, R. R., Reich, Z., & Kirchhoff, H. (2014). Compartmentalization of the protein repair machinery in photosynthetic membranes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(44), 15839-15844.

Tietz, S., Puthiyaveetil, S., Enlow, H. M., Yarbrough, R., Wood, M., Semchonok, D. A., . . . Kirchhoff, H. (2015). Functional implications of photosystem II crystal formation in photosynthetic membranes. The Journal of Biological Chemistry, 290(22), 14091-14106.

Ibrahim, I. M., Puthiyaveetil, S., & Allen, J. F. (2016). A Two-Component Regulatory System in Transcriptional Control of Photosystem Stoichiometry: Redox-Dependent and Sodium Ion-Dependent Phosphoryl Transfer from Cyanobacterial Histidine Kinase Hik2 to Response Regulators Rre1 and RppA. Frontiers in Plant Science, 7, 137. doi:10.3389/fpls.2016.00137

Puthiyaveetil, S., Van Oort, B., & Kirchhoff, H. (2017). Surface charge dynamics in photosynthetic membranes and the structural consequences. Nat Plants. doi:10.1038/nplants.2017.20

Awards & Honors

(2012) Leverhulme Trust Early Career Research Fellowship.

Department of Biochemistry, 175 South University Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2063 USA, (765) 494-1600

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