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Spectral extension in photosynthesis: molecular mechanism of photosynthesis driven by red-shifted chlorophylls


Novel pigments and new directions in photosynthesis: past, now and future. There are five different forms of chlorophylls, Chl a, Chl b, Chl c, Chl d and Chl f. Chlorophyll a is the most abundant chlorophyll, present in the reaction centre and light-harvesting complexes of almost all oxygenic photosynthetic organisms. The discoveries of the Chl d-containing Acaryochloris marina [Miyashita et al. 1996] and the newly discovery of Chl f [Chen et al. 2010] have challenged the minimum threshold energy input for oxygenic photosynthesis [Chen and Blankenship 2011].


Professor Min Chen.

Research location

School of Life and Environmental Sciences

Program type



Photosynthesis – the most important reaction on the Earth – is the agent that stores the energy of sunlight into carbohydrates for later use in the biosphere. To increase the efficiency of photosynthesis, Nature has evolved varieties of chlorophyll that encompass most of the range of visible light, enabling the maximal use of sunlight. Chlorophyll a was considered to be the only chlorophyll that can use the energy of sunlight to power the water-splitting reaction in oxygenic photosynthesis: this is the essential reaction that keeps the natural biosphere functioning. However, the possible solar energy efficiency between the Chl a/b system, from 400 to 700 nm, and the red-shifted chlorophylls-photosynthetic systems that can use the light from 400–760 nm can increase the solar energy conversion potential. Understanding the molecular mechanism of red-shifted chlorophyll-photosynthesis would be the first step toward potential application in artificial photosynthesis and renewable bioenergy. 

Additional information

•    Current PhD/Hons topics being undertaken at the location or with the supervisors
Three PhD Projects are being undertaken in A/Prof Chen’s laboratory.
1.    Light-harvesting systems in Chromera velia
2.    Function of antenna systems in a newly isolated cyanobacterium containing chlorophyll f
3.    Global protein analysis of cyanobacterium Acaryochloris marina under various oxygen-stressed conditions.

•    Is the opportunity also available for Honours students?
Yes, one-year potential projects are available for honours students. Details please contact A/Prof Min Chen (

•    Techniques, methodologies, research approaches, technologies, etc., employed by the project - e.g., electron microscopy, textual analysis, etc.
Pigment and pigment-bound protein analyses are performed by using a spectrophotometer, fluorescence photometer and other molecular spectral analysis methods.
General protein isolation and characteristic methods, such as electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE, IEF, Western Blotting, Native electrophoresis, 2-D gel, peptide mass finger printing and other proteomic analysis.

Chromatographic anaylsis such as HPLC (high-performance liquid chromatography), FPLC (Fast protein liquid chromatography), gel filtration and ion-exchanging columns for proteins and protein-complexes purification.
DNA, RNA isolation, PCR (DNA as templates) and RT-PCR (RNA as templates), Gene transformation and functional studies in vitro.

General biochemical and molecular biological experiences are required for potential students who want to study inthe laboratory. Hons A or similar experiences is required.

• Scholarships/funding available
ARC Centre of Excellent for Translational Photosynthesis (2014-2020)
Biosynthesis of chlorophylls (ARC Future Fellow, 2013-2016)
ARC Discovery Project (2012-2014)

HDR Inherent Requirements

In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
- Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
- Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
- Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
- Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
- Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
- Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
- Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
- Hold a current scuba diving license;
- Hold a current Working with Children Check;
- Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

Want to find out more?

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 1307

Other opportunities with Professor Min Chen