The Pakrasi Lab recently received $1.2 million in funding from the National Science Foundation to study the unicellular nitrogen-fixing cyanobacterium Cyanothece 51142. Cyanothece 51142 is an enigmatic species because it can perform both nitrogen fixation and photosynthesis in the same cell. Normally these two processes are mutually exclusive because the presence of oxygen interferes with nitrogen fixation. Recent advances in genetic manipulation techniques have opened the door for investigating how this organism is able to perform both processes in the same cellular space. Researching this phenomenon will provide insight on how crop plants could be engineered to perform both processes, ultimately leading to more sustainable agricultural practices.
The Washington University news outlet The Record published an article with details on the project and future implications of the research: https://source.wustl.edu/2019/10/nsf-funds-research-on-nitrogen-fixation/.