Academic Profile

Academic Profile

Assoc Prof Oliver Martin Mueller-Cajar

Associate Professor, School of Biological Sciences
Assistant Chair (Research)

Assoc Prof Oliver Martin Mueller-Cajar

I undertook my PhD studies under the supervision of Dr. Spencer Whitney at the Australian National University in Canberra, studying the artificial evolution of the photosynthetic CO2-fixing enzyme Rubisco. Subsequently I joined the laboratory of Dr. Manajit Hayer-Hartl at the Max-Planck Institute of Biochemistry near Munich, Germany, where I discovered a novel molecular motor that activates Rubisco. My group at NTU started in August 2012.
Research Interests
Photosynthetic organisms provide us with food and other materials by using light energy from the sun to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to make usable sugars. Almost all CO2 enters the biosphere via the enzyme ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase oxygenase (Rubisco). In spite of the crucial importance of this process Rubisco is non-specific and slow, which has forced nature to hugely overexpress the protein, or to use tricks such as biochemical or biophysical carbon concentrating mechanisms to saturate the enzyme with substrate.
Genomic studies have uncovered that Nature possesses a great diversity of Rubiscos and associated protein machinery to perform the task of CO2 capture, much of it poorly characterized. Research in my laboratory aims to mechanistically describe the biochemistry of CO2-fixation related machinery. By increasing our understanding of the sophisticated mechanisms that have evolved in remote branches of the tree of life, we hope to provide knowledge that can later be applied to improving the photosynthetic efficiency of crop species.

An emerging interest concerns the use of cyanobacteria as a synthetic biology platform. This involves both the utilization and implementation of heterologous CO2 fixation machinery, as well as the potential to channel the photosynthate towards compounds of scientific and commercial interest.
Current Projects
  • A Versatile Singapore-based Proprietary Transgenesis Platform for the Biopharmaceutical and Soft Commodity Sector
  • Exploration and utilization of the natural diversity of rubisco regulators
  • Integrating in vivo and in vitro approaches for metagenomic RuBisCO sequence mining to improve carbon fixation
  • Molecular Machines Regulating Biological CO2 Fixation
  • Reconstituting phase separations that enable the microalgal CO2 superchargers
  • The Rubisco activation machinery of phytoplankton and autotrophic bacteria
  • The unusual CO2-fixing engine of dinoflagellates, the algae that power the coral ecosystems
Selected Publications
  • Tobias Wunder, Steven Le Hung Cheng, Soak-Kuan Lai, Hoi-Yeung Li and Oliver Mueller-Cajar. (2018). The phase separation underlying the pyrenoid-based microalgal Rubisco supercharger. Nature Communications, 9, 5076.
  • Shivhare D, Mueller-Cajar O. (2017). In Vitro Characterization of Thermostable CAM Rubisco Activase Reveals a Rubisco Interacting Surface Loop. Plant Physiology, 174(3), 1505-1516.
  • Jin S, Sun J, Wunder T, Tang D, Cousins AB, Sze SK, Mueller-Cajar O, Gao YG. (2016). Structural insights into the LCIB protein family reveals a new group of β-carbonic anhydrases.. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), 113(51), 14716-14721.
  • Loganathan N, Tsai YC, Mueller-Cajar O. (2016). Characterization of the heterooligomeric red-type rubisco activase from red algae. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), 113(49), 14019-14024.
  • Tsai Y.C., Lapina M.C., Bushan S., Mueller-Cajar O. (2015). Identification and characterization of multiple rubisco activases in chemoautotrophic bacteria. Nature Communications, 6, 8883.

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