Nav: Home

RUB researchers use cyanobacteria for the production of chemicals

March 31, 2016

Prof Dr Robert Kourist from the junior research group Microbial Biotechnology and Dr Marc Nowaczyk from the Chair for Plant Biochemistry have succeeded in genetically modifying cyanobacteria, thus creating cells that produce enzymes for the manufacture of basic and fine chemicals. The bacteria also supply the energy required by the enzymes - by performing photosynthesis. A report on their work has been published in the renowned journal Angewandte Chemie.

No external supply of chemical energy necessary

To fulfil their function as biocatalysts, enzymes require chemical energy, which is typically supplied in form of sugar or other high-energy bonds. The researchers from Bochum, on the other hand, take advantage of the fact that, like plants, cyanobacteria perform photosynthesis. "During photosynthesis, light energy is initially converted into chemical energy. In the second step, that energy is mainly used for binding of carbon dioxide. However, a small percentage of the energy remains and can be directly utilised," says Marc Nowaczyk. The approach adopted by the researchers is to decouple the supplied chemical energy from carbon fixation and to use it directly for chemical reactions.

No unwanted by-products

Using genetically modified living cyanobacteria as catalysts for photosynthesis driven biotransformations is a new approach. As the researchers point out, they have observed that cyanobacteria catalyse only the synthesis of the desired chemical product in their experiments and, consequently, that they function selectively. Many catalytic processes produce not just one product, but also a mirrored one, which has to be painstakingly filtered out. "The outstanding selectivity is crucial for deployment in industrial applications," says Robert Kourist.

Broad application range

The experiments have, moreover, demonstrated that enzymes from other organisms can be successfully introduced into cyanobacteria. This means that the process can be used in a number of reactions. "The chemical industry has to become cleaner," as Robert Kourist sums up the researchers' ambitious objective. Utilising photosynthesis to catalyse chemical reactions is a promising step towards this aim.
Original publication

K. Köninger, A. Gomez-Baraibar, C. Mügge, C. Paul., F. Hollmann, M. Nowaczyk, R. Kourist (2016): Recombinant cyanobacteria as tools for asymmetric C=C bond reduction fueled by biocatalytic water oxidation, Angewandte Chemie, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201601200

Ruhr-University Bochum

Related Photosynthesis Articles:

Photosynthesis olympics: can the best wheat varieties be even better?
Scientists have put elite wheat varieties through a sort of 'Photosynthesis Olympics' to find which varieties have the best performing photosynthesis.
Strange bacteria hint at ancient origin of photosynthesis
Structures inside rare bacteria are similar to those that power photosynthesis in plants today, suggesting the process is older than assumed.
Just how much does enhancing photosynthesis improve crop yield?
In the next two decades, crop yields need to increase dramatically to feed the growing global population.
Algal library lends insights into genes for photosynthesis
To identify genes involved in photosynthesis, researchers built a library containing thousands of single-celled algae, each with a different gene mutation.
New molecular blueprint advances our understanding of photosynthesis
Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have used one of the most advanced microscopes in the world to reveal the structure of a large protein complex crucial to photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert sunlight into cellular energy.
How bacteria build hyper-efficient photosynthesis machines
Researchers facing a future with a larger population and more uncertain climate are looking for ways to improve crop yields, and they're looking to photosynthetic bacteria for engineering solutions.
Structure and function of photosynthesis protein explained in detail
An international team of researchers has solved the structure and elucidated the function of photosynthetic complex I.
Photosynthesis like a moss
Moss evolved after algae but before vascular land plants, such as ferns and trees, making them an interesting target for scientists studying photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert sunlight to fuel.
'Turbocharging' photosynthesis in corn hikes yield
Scientists from the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) and Cornell University have boosted a carbon-craving enzyme called RuBisCO to turbocharge photosynthesis in corn.
Eco-friendly nanoparticles for artificial photosynthesis
Researchers at the University of Zurich have developed a nanoparticle type for novel use in artificial photosynthesis by adding zinc sulfide on the surface of indium-based quantum dots.
More Photosynthesis News and Photosynthesis Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#538 Nobels and Astrophysics
This week we start with this year's physics Nobel Prize awarded to Jim Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz and finish with a discussion of the Nobel Prizes as a way to award and highlight important science. Are they still relevant? When science breakthroughs are built on the backs of hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of people's hard work, how do you pick just three to highlight? Join host Rachelle Saunders and astrophysicist, author, and science communicator Ethan Siegel for their chat about astrophysics and Nobel Prizes.