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School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

Dr Tanai Cardona

Dr Tanai

Reader in Synthetic Biology and Biotechnology, UKRI Future Leaders Fellow

Room Number: Room 4.20, Fogg Building
Twitter: @Tanai_Cardona


I lead QMUL’s Molecular Evolution Lab.

Our research focuses on resolving how and when the molecular complexes of photosynthesis originated, how photosynthesis diversified through the long history of our planet, and the implications this knowledge has on the origin and early evolution of life on Earth, and beyond.

Our research also aims to harness and develop directed evolution methods, in combination with the insights we've gained on the origin and evolution of photosynthesis, to engineer light-driven enzymes with novel properties or chemistries as future sustainable biotechnologies.

The collective expertise of my group is at the intersection of molecular evolution, bioinformatics, genomics, biochemistry, biophysics, structural biology, and synthetic biology.



Google scholar:


  1. Gisriel CJ, Bryant DA, Brudvig GW, Cardona T. (2023) Molecular diversity and evolution of far-red light-acclimated photosystem I. Frontiers in Plant Science. 14: 1289199.
  2. Oliver T, Kim TD, Trinugroho P, Cordón-Preciado Violeta, Wijayatilake N, Bhatia A, Rutherford AW, Cardona T. (2023) The evolution and evolvability of photosystem II. Annual Reviews of Plant Biology, 74: 225-257.
  3. Gisriel CJ, Cardona T, Bryant DA, Brudvig GW. (2022) Molecular evolution of far-red light-acclimated photosystem II. Microorganisms 10 (7), 1270.
  4. Gisriel CJ, Azai C, Cardona T. (2021) Recent advances in the structural diversity of reaction centers. Photosynthesis Research, 149: 329-343
  5. Saw J, Cardona T, Montejano-Zurita G. (2021) Complete genome sequencing of a novel Gloeobacter species from a waterfall cave in Mexico. Genome Biology and Evolution, 13: evab264.
  6. Oliver T, Sánchez-Baracaldo P, Larkum AWD, Rutherford AW, Cardona T. (2021) Time-resolved comparative molecular evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta – Bioenergetics. 1862: 148400.
  7. Antonaru LA, Cardona T, Larkum AWD, Nürnberg DJ. (2020) Global distribution of a chlorophyll f cyanobacterial marker. The ISME Journal, 14: 2275–2287.
  8. Sánchez-Baracaldo P, Cardona T. (2019) On the origin of oxygenic photosynthesis and cyanobacteria. New Phytologist, Tansley Insight, 225: 1440-1446.
  9. Ward LM, Cardona T, Holland-Moritz M. (2019) Evolutionary implications of anoxygenic phototrophy in the bacterial phylum Candidatus Eremiobacterota (WPS-2). Frontiers in Microbiology, 10: 1658.
  10. Cardona T and Rutherford AW (2019). Evolution of photochemical reaction centres: more twists? Trends in Plant Science, 24: 1008-1021.
  11. Cardona T. (2019). Thinking twice about the evolution of photosynthesis. Open Biology, 9: 180246.
  12. Cardona T, Sánchez-Baracaldo P, Rutherford AW, Larkum AWD. (2019) Early Archean origin of Photosystem II. Geobiology, 17: 127-150.
  13. Nürnberg DJ, Morton J, Santabarbara S, Telfer A, Joliot P, Antonaru LA, Ruban AH, Cardona T, Krausz E, Boussac A, Fantuzzi A and Rutherford AW. (2018) Photochemistry beyond the red-limit in chlorophyll f-photosystems. Science, 360: 1210-1213.
  14. Cardona T. (2018) Early Archean origin of heterodimeric Photosystem I. Heliyon, 4: e00548.
  15. Cardona T, Shao S, Nixon PJ. (2018) Enhancing photosynthesis in plants: the light reactions. Essays in Biochemistry, 62: 85-94.
  16. Shao S, Cardona T, Nixon PJ. (2018) Early emergence of the FtsH proteases involved in photosystem II repair. Photosynthetica, 56: 163-177.
  17. Magnuson A, Cardona T. (2018) Isolation of intact thylakoid membranes from heterocysts of filamentous, nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria. In: Mock HP, Matros A, Witzel K. (Eds.) Plant Membrane Proteomics. Methods in Molecular Biology, 1696: 137-145. Springer, Humana Press, New York, NY.
  18. Cardona T. (2017) Photosystem II is a chimera of reaction centers. Journal of Molecular Evolution, 84: 149-151.
  19. Cardona T. (2017) Evolution of photosynthesis. In: Encyclopaedia of Life Sciences. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester.
  20. Cardona T. (2016) Reconstructing the origin of oxygenic photosynthesis: do assembly and photoactivation recapitulate evolution? Frontiers in Plant Science, 7: 257.
  21. Magnuson A, Cardona T. (2016) Thylakoid membrane function in heterocysts. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta – Bioenergetics, 1857: 309-319.
  22. Cardona T. (2016) Origin of bacteriochlorophyll a and the early diversification of photosynthesis. PloS ONE, 11(3): e0151250.
  23. Cardona T. (2015) A fresh look at the evolution and diversification of photochemical reaction centers. Photosynthesis Research, 126: 111-134.
  24. Cardona T, Murray JW, Rutherford AW. (2015) Origin and evolution of water oxidation before the last common ancestor of the Cyanobacteria. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 32: 1310-1328.
  25. Cardona T, Sedoud A, Cox N, Rutherford AW. (2012) Charge separation in Photosystem II: a comparative and evolutionary overview. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta – Bioenergetics, 1817: 26-43.
  26. Kato M, Cardona T, Rutherford AW, Reisner E. (2013) Covalent immobilization of oriented Photosystem II on a nanostructured electrode for solar water oxidation. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 135: 10610-10613.
  27. Kato M, Cardona T, Rutherford AW, Reisner E. (2012) Photoelectrochemical water oxidation with Photosystem II integrated in a mesoporous indium–tin oxide electrode. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 134: 8332-8335.
  28. Cardona T, Magnuson A. (2010) Excitation energy transfer to Photosystem I in filaments and heterocysts of Nostoc punctiforme. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta – Bioenergetics, 1797: 425-433.
  29. Cardona T, Battchikova N, Zhang P, Stensjö K, Aro EM, Lindblad P, Magnuson A. (2009) Electron transfer protein complexes in the thylakoid membranes of heterocysts from the cyanobacterium Nostoc punctiforme. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta – Bioenergetics, 1787: 252-263.
  30. Ow SY, Noirel J, Cardona T, Taton A, Lindblad P, Stensjö K, Wright PC. (2009) Quantitative overview of N2 fixation in Nostoc punctiforme ATCC 29133 through cellular enrichments and iTRAQ shotgun proteomics. Journal of Proteome Research, 8: 187-198.
  31. Ow SY, Cardona T, Taton A, Magnuson A, Lindblad P, Stensjö K, Wright PC. (2008) Quantitative shotgun proteomics of enriched heterocysts from Nostoc PCC 7120 using 8-plex isobaric peptide tags. Journal of Proteome Research, 7: 1615-1628.
  32. Cardona T, Styring S, Lindblad P, Magnuson, A. Purified heterocysts from Nostoc punctiforme studied by laser scanning confocal microscopy. In Photosynthesis. Energy from the Sun, proceedings of the 14th International Congress on Photosynthesis. Editors: Allen JF et al. Springer, Netherlands. 2008, pp 755-758.
  33. Cardona T, Battchikova N, Agervald A, Zhang P, Nagel E, Aro EM, Styring S, Lindblad P, Magnuson A. (2007) Isolation and characterization of thylakoid membranes from the filamentous cyanobacterium Nostoc punctiforme. Physiologia Plantarum, 131: 622-634.


Murphy D, Cardona T. (2022) Photosynthetic life: origin, evolution, and future. Oxford Biology Primers, Oxford University Press, UK.

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