Nav: Home

'Tricking' bacteria into hydroxylating benzene

June 11, 2018

Nagoya, Japan - Breaking carbon-hydrogen bonds is notoriously difficult in lab chemistry, yet nature does it effortlessly. Now, scientists have used E.coli bacteria to oxidize the C-H bonds in benzene to generate phenol, with a genetically inserted enzyme (cytochrome P450BM3), that originally evolved to target other molecules, long-chain fatty acids.

Getting enzymes to do novel reactions - effectively hijacking the biochemistry of living cells for our own purposes - is generally tricky, involving harsh conditions or genetic modification of the enzymes themselves.

However, researchers at Nagoya University worked around this by using "decoy" molecules, which mimic the native targets (substrates) of naturally occurring enzymes, to activate the desired reaction.

As reported in Angewandte Chemie International Edition, the research team created a compound - dubbed C7-Pro-Phe - based on amino acids. This decoy molecule resembles the fatty acids that E.coli metabolizes. Insert the decoy into an E.coli cell, and it will be mis-recognized as a fatty acid, triggering activation of the inserted P450 enzyme. Now supply benzene (C6H6), and the bacteria get busy, oxidizing C6H6 to C6H6O (phenol). No need for the usual lab kit - living cells can do complex chemistry quietly and efficiently.

"The advantage of our system is that C7-Pro-Phe can be easily taken up by the bacteria, where it activates P450BM3 in the cell. This effectively turns each bacterium into a whole-cell biocatalyst," study first author Masayuki Karasawa says. "The cell is an optimal setting for the biochemical reaction. The decoys actually remodel the enzyme's active site, giving us control over aspects of the reaction, such as stereoselectivity."

All that is needed is a ready supply of glucose - which can be recycled from waste products - to feed the E.coli.

Because a naturally occurring - rather than genetically modified - variant of the enzyme is expressed by the E.coli, it is likely that other bacteria could also be modified with the same gene to perform this job. Moreover, different decoys might be suitable for different substrates or bacteria. "A combined program of decoy-screening and mutagenesis could create a versatile toolkit for whole-cell reactions using bacteria," co-author Osami Shoji says.
-end-
The article, "Whole-Cell Biotransformation of Benzene to Phenol Catalysed by Intracellular Cytochrome P450BM3 Activated by External Additives," was published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition at DOI:10.1002/anie.201804924.

Nagoya University

Related Bacteria Articles:

Conducting shell for bacteria
Under anaerobic conditions, certain bacteria can produce electricity. This behavior can be exploited in microbial fuel cells, with a special focus on wastewater treatment schemes.
Controlling bacteria's necessary evil
Until now, scientists have only had a murky understanding of how these relationships arise.
Bacteria take a deadly risk to survive
Bacteria need mutations -- changes in their DNA code -- to survive under difficult circumstances.
How bacteria hunt other bacteria
A bacterial species that hunts other bacteria has attracted interest as a potential antibiotic, but exactly how this predator tracks down its prey has not been clear.
Chlamydia: How bacteria take over control
To survive in human cells, chlamydiae have a lot of tricks in store.
Stress may protect -- at least in bacteria
Antibiotics harm bacteria and stress them. Trimethoprim, an antibiotic, inhibits the growth of the bacterium Escherichia coli and induces a stress response.
'Pulling' bacteria out of blood
Magnets instead of antibiotics could provide a possible new treatment method for blood infection.
New findings detail how beneficial bacteria in the nose suppress pathogenic bacteria
Staphylococcus aureus is a common colonizer of the human body.
Understanding your bacteria
New insight into bacterial cell division could lead to advancements in the fight against harmful bacteria.
Bacteria are individualists
Cells respond differently to lack of nutrients.

Related Bacteria Reading:

Bacteria: Staph, Strep, Clostridium, and Other Bacteria (Class of Their Own (Paperback))
by Judy Wearing (Author)

The Bacteria Book: The Big World of Really Tiny Microbes
by Steve Mould (Author)

A Field Guide to Bacteria (Comstock Book)
by Betsey Dexter Dyer (Author)

Bacteria: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
by Sebastian G.B. Amyes (Author)

Are All Bacteria Dangerous? Biology Book for Kids | Children's Biology Books
by Baby Professor (Author)

The Surprising World of Bacteria with Max Axiom, Super Scientist (Graphic Science)
by Agnieszka Biskup (Author), Anne Timmons (Author), Matt Webb (Author), Krista Ward (Author)

Basic Medical Microbiology
by Patrick R. Murray PhD (Author)

Molecular Genetics of Bacteria, 4th Edition
by Larry Snyder (Author), Joseph E. Peters (Author), Tina M. Henkin (Author), Wendy Champness (Author)

Virus vs. Bacteria : Knowing the Difference - Biology 6th Grade | Children's Biology Books
by Baby Professor (Author)

Superbugs: An Arms Race against Bacteria
by William Hall (Author), Anthony McDonnell (Author), Jim O'Neill Chair of a formal Review on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) (Author)

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Hacking The Law
We have a vision of justice as blind, impartial, and fair — but in reality, the law often fails those who need it most. This hour, TED speakers explore radical ways to change the legal system. Guests include lawyer and social justice advocate Robin Steinberg, animal rights lawyer Steven Wise, political activist Brett Hennig, and lawyer and social entrepreneur Vivek Maru.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#495 Earth Science in Space
Some worlds are made of sand. Some are made of water. Some are even made of salt. In science fiction and fantasy, planet can be made of whatever you want. But what does that mean for how the planets themselves work? When in doubt, throw an asteroid at it. This is a live show recorded at the 2018 Dragon Con in Atlanta Georgia. Featuring Travor Valle, Mika McKinnon, David Moscato, Scott Harris, and moderated by our own Bethany Brookshire. Note: The sound isn't as good as we'd hoped but we love the guests and the conversation and we wanted to...