Nav: Home

Enzyme from briny deep resurrected in the lab

January 16, 2018

Mysterious microbes that thrive in hot and super-salty brine lakes at the bottom of the Red Sea could yield a treasure trove of new enzymes for industrial applications--if only scientists had access to their biological bounty.

A new study led by KAUST scientists now spells out a way to exploit this vast untapped resource.

Current methods rely on growing microbes in the lab to study their characteristics. However, most microbes cannot be cultured and thus evade scientific scrutiny. Instead, researchers from KAUST and the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in Germany resurrected and tested specific proteins from so-called single-amplified genomes (SAGs)--whole genomes extracted from a single captured microbial cell.

"This is the first time that SAGs have been used to produce proteins," says first author, Stefan Grötzinger, a doctoral student working at both KAUST and TUM. "The proof that proteins of desired functions can be obtained from SAGs could change the way we search for new enzymes."

Grötzinger and his colleagues--led by KAUST structural biologist Stefan Arold with Jörg Eppinger, a chemist formerly at KAUST, and TUM scientists Dirk Weuster-Botz and Michael Groll--started with a microbial cell plumbed from a brine pool located 80km off the coast of Jeddah and 2,000m below the Red Sea surface. From its SAG, they computationally identified a gene encoding one of the microbe's alcohol dehydrogenases (ADHs), an enzyme commonly used in food, pharmaceutical and chemical industries.

The researchers first tried to express this enzyme in Escherichia coli, a common bacterial platform for protein production, but this approach didn't produce useful proteins. They then turned to a different microbe that lives in a highly saline environment and that can also be cultured in the lab. In this microbe, they managed to obtain enough of the ADH protein that they could infer its three-dimensional structure through X-ray crystallography and perform a full biochemical characterization, including its enzymatic capacities.

Their analyses revealed characteristics that presumably arose as adaptations to life in the hot and salty sea. For example, the protein works under extremely high concentrations of organic solvent, tolerates high temperatures and can be freeze-dried--all features that make the enzyme attractive for commercial industrial applications, Grötzinger says.

But more generally, he adds, the study provides a roadmap for how to mine the molecular riches of organisms found in extreme environments. Plus, it provides an exemplar of international and local collaboration, uniting scientists in Germany and Saudi Arabia, with cooperation from three units of KAUST: the Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering Division, the Computational Bioscience Research Center and the Catalysis Center.
-end-
Reference

Groetsinger, S., Karan, R., Strillinger, E., Bader, S., Frank, A., Al Rowaihi, I., Wackerow, W., Akal, A., Archer, J., Rueping, M., Weuster-Botz, D., Groll, M., Eppinger, J., Arold, S. Identification and experimental characterization of an extremophilic brine pool alcohol dehydrogenase from single amplified genomes. ACS Chemical Biology advance online publication, 30 November 2017.

King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST)

Related Microbes Articles:

A new look at deep-sea microbes
Microbes found deeper in the ocean are believed to have slow population turnover rates and low amounts of available energy.
Microbes might manage your cholesterol
Researchers discover a link between human blood cholesterol levels and a gene in the microbiome that could one day help people manage their cholesterol through diet, probiotics, or entirely new types of treatment.
Can your gut microbes tell you how old you really are?
Harvard longevity researchers in collaboration with Insilico Medicine develop the first AI-powered microbiomic aging clock
What can be learned from the microbes on a turtle's shell?
Research published in the journal Microbiology has found that a unique type of algae, usually only seen on the shells of turtles, affects the surrounding microbial communities.
Life, liberty -- and access to microbes?
Poverty increases the risk for numerous diseases by limiting people's access to healthy food, environments and stress-free conditions.
Rye is healthy, thanks to an interplay of microbes
Eating rye comes with a variety of health benefits. A new study from the University of Eastern Finland now shows that both lactic acid bacteria and gut bacteria contribute to the health benefits of rye.
Gut microbes may affect the course of ALS
Researchers isolated a molecule that may be under-produced in the guts of patients.
Gut microbes associated with temperament traits in children
Scientists in the FinnBrain research project of the University of Turku discovered that the gut microbes of a 2.5-month-old infant are associated with the temperament traits manifested at six months of age.
Gut microbes eat our medication
Researchers have discovered one of the first concrete examples of how the microbiome can interfere with a drug's intended path through the body.
Microbes can grow on nitric oxide
Nitric oxide (NO) is a central molecule of the global nitrogen cycle.
More Microbes News and Microbes Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.