Poul Erik Jensen – University of Copenhagen

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Center for Synthetic Biology > Meet the Researchers > Poul Erik Jensen

Poul Erik Jensen


Photosystem I Group
Section for Molecular Plant Biology
Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences
Faculty of Science


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.

Our group identified genes for several of the 23 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, function and assembly of the PSI complex and engineered mechanisms to protect the complex from photodestruction when plants are subjected to high solar radiation or nutrient deficiency. Besides nuclear and chloroplast transformation and a wealth of biochemical tools, fast optic methods to measure photosynthetic partial reactions have been established.

One of our 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, fibres 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 currently 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.

Figure: Schematic representation of chloroplast bioengineering. Photosynthesis and biosynthesis ofspecialised bioactive compounds are separated in the chloroplast and the endoplasmatic reticulum, respectively. Using a bioengineering approach we aim at co-localizing the biosynthetic pathway of some of these compounds (e.g. some with anti-cancer effects) together with the photosynthetic complexes in the chloroplast.


2013-present Vice-Head of Copenhagen Plant Science Center (CPSC), University of Copenhagen
2009-present Professor at the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of Copenhagen
1998-2009 Associate Professor at Dept. of Plant Biology and Biotechnology, University of Copenhagen
1995-1998 Post Doctoral Research Fellow in the laboratory of Prof. C. Neil Hunter at Dept. of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, University of Sheffield, U.K. (Funded by the Danish Research Council)
1993-1995 Research Fellow at Genetic Section, Dept. of Ecology, Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University (Now Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen).
1990-1993 Ph.D.-student at the Genetics Section, Dept. of Ecology, KVL, DK.

Collaborations within the Center for Synthetic Biology
Birger Lindberg Møller
Lærke Marie Münter Lassen
Agnieszka Zygadlo
Björn Hamberger
Knud J. Jensen
Kell Mortensen
Lise Arleth
Nikos Hatzakis
Sune Klammer Jørgensen
Marité Cárdanas Gómez
Karen Martinez
Tomas Laursen
Thomas Günter-Pormorski

Selected Scientific Publications

Skryhan, K., Cuesta-Seijo, J.A., Nielsen, M.M., Marri, L., Mellor, S.B., Glaring, M.A., Jensen, P.E., Palcic, M.M. and Blennow, A. The Role of Cysteine Residues in Redox Regulation and Protein Stability of Arabidopsis thaliana Starch Synthase 1. Plos One. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0136997  (2015) I.F. 4,440

Gangl, D.,  Zedler, J.A.Z., Rajakumar, P.D., Martinez, E.M.R., Riseley, A., Włodarczyk, A., Purton, S. and Sakuragi, Y. Biotechnological exploitation of microalgae. Journal of Experimental Botany, E-pub ahead of publication. (2015) doi: 10.1093/jxb/erv426 I.F. 6.312

Lassen, L. M., Nielsen, A.Z., Olsen, C.E., Bialek, W., Jensen, K., Møller, B.L., and Jensen, P.E. Anchoring a Plant Cytochrome P450 via PsaM to the Thylakoids in Synechococcus sp PCC 7002: Evidence for Light-Driven Biosynthesis. Plos One 9, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102184 (2014).

Jensen, P. E. & Leister, D. Chloroplast evolution, structure and functions. 
F1000Prime Rep 6, 40, doi:10.12703/p6-40 (2014).

Powikrowska, M., Oetke, S., Jensen, P. E. & Krupinska, K. 
Dynamic composition, shaping and organization of plastid nucleoids. 
Frontiers in Plant science 5, 424-424, doi:10.3389/fpls.2014.00424(2014).

Lassen, L. M., Nielsen, A.Z., Ziersen, B., Gnanasekaran, T., Møller, B.L., and Jensen, P.E. Redirecting Photosynthetic Electron Flow into Light-Driven Synthesis of Alternative Products Including High-Value Bioactive Natural Compounds. Acs Synthetic Biology 3, 1-12, doi:10.1021/sb400136f (2014).

Jensen, P. E. & Leister, D. Cyanobacteria as an Experimental Platform for Modifying Bacterial and Plant Photosynthesis. Front Bioeng Biotechnol2, 7, doi:10.3389/fbioe.2014.00007 (2014)

Powikrowska, M. Khrouchtchova, A., Martens, H.J., Zygadlo-Nielsen, A., Melonek,J., Schulz,A., Krupinska,K., Rodermel, S., Jensen, P.E. 
SVR4 (suppressor of variegation 4) and SVR4-like: two proteins with a role in proper organization of the chloroplast genetic machinery. 
Physiologia Plant. 150, 477-492, doi:10.1111/ppl.12108 (2014).

Armbruster, U., Labs, M., Pribil, M., Viola, S., Xu, W., Scharfenberg, M., Hertle, A.P., Rojahn, U., Jensen, P.E., Rappaport. F., Joliot, P., Dörmann, P., Wanner, G., Leister, D. CURT1 Proteins Modify Thylakoid Architecture by Inducing Membrane Curvature. Plant Cell 25, 2661-2678, doi:10.1105/tpc.113.11311859(2013).

Busch, A., Petersen, J., Webber-Birungi, M.T., Powikrowska, M., Lassen, L.M., Naumann-Busch, B., Nielsen, A.Z., Ye, J., Boekema, E.J., Jensen, O.N., Lunde, C., Jensen, P.E. The composition and structure of photosystem I in the moss Physcomitrella patens. Journal of Experimental Botany 64(10), 2689-2699, doi: 10.1093/jxb/ert126 (2013).

Nielsen, A. Z., Ziersen, B., Jensen, K., Lassen, L.M., Olsen, C.E., Møller, B.L., and Jensen, P.E. Redirecting Photosynthetic Reducing Power toward Bioactive Natural Product Synthesis. Acs Synthetic Biology 2, 308-315, doi:10.1021/sb300128r (2013).

Silvestro, D., Andersen, T., Schaller, H., Jensen, P.E. Plant Sterol Metabolism. Δ7-sterol-C5-desaturase (STE1/DWARF7), Δ5,7-sterol-Δ7-reductase (DWARF5) and Δ24-sterol-Δ24-reductase (DIMINUTO/DWARF1) show multiple subcellular localizations in Arabidopsis thaliana (Heynh) L. Plos one 8(2): e56429. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056429 (2013).

Stenbæk, A., Hansson, A., Wulff, R.P., Hansson, M., Dietz, K.-J., Jensen, P.E. NADPH-dependent thioredoxin reductase and 2-Cys peroxiredoxins are needed for the protection of Mg–protoporphyrin monomethyl ester cyclase. FEBS Letters 582, 2773–2778, doi:10.1016/j.febslet.2008.07.006 (2008).