Poul Erik Jensen's group has a strong expertise within photosynthesis research focusing on photosystem I (PSI) and chloroplast biology. The ability to manipulate photosynthetic chloroplasts in order to tap into the light harvesting system of plants and to utilize this power for the production of valuable bioactive natural products is of great interest both for academia and industry due to the potential of an efficient biosynthetic production of e.g. anti-cancer pharmaceuticals.
His group identified genes for subunits of the PSI holocomplex and has elucidated the function of these subunits at the molecular and physiological level. Transgenic plants lacking individual subunits constitute important experimental tools. Current topics include structure and function of the photosynthetic complexes and their response to abiotic stresses such as nutrient limitation. Besides nuclear and chloroplast transformation and a wealth of biochemical tools, optic methods to measure photosynthetic partial reactions have been established.
One of his main focus points is manipulation of the photosynthetic chloroplasts which provides a platform to engineer new pathways and establish bio-factories which synthesize desired industry products for pharmaceuticals, fine chemicals, or fuels. Especially terpenoids are of interest due to their pharmacological properties, including anti-cancer activity. However, their availability is generally very limited and organic synthesis is often not feasible. By re-routing biosynthetic pathways and optimizing the chain of energy transfer we can overcome the inherent limitations in plants to channel photosynthetic fixed carbon and the light-excited electrons directly into production of such desired bioactive natural products.