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Can microorganisms be a solution to the world's energy problems?
Date:7/10/2008

s of uncultivated microorganisms using metagenomics.

To date, approximately 75 genomes are available from microorganisms that have a role in bioenergy production. These include 21 genomes from methane producing archaea, 24 genomes from bacteria that can produce hydrogen or electricity, and 30 genomes from cyanobacteria that are potential biodiesel producers. At least half of the completed microbial genomes that are relevant to bioenergy were released in the past 2 years, and more than 80 bioenergy-related genomes are currently being sequenced.

A great example is the Biodesign Institute's biofuel bacterium, Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803, the first bioenergy-relevant microorganism to be sequenced; its genome was released in 1995. This photosynthetic bacterium features membranes with high lipid (i.e., oil) content, which makes it an excellent biodiesel candidate.

The growing pool of genomic information provides molecular targets that support pre-genomic and post-genomic investigations, both of which provide essential information on what microorganisms are present in the community and what metabolic reactions they are carrying out. With genomics combined with high-throughput DNA sequencing and proteomics, our understanding of bioenergy-producing microorganisms should surge.

Because success with microbial bioenergy demands in-depth knowledge of the complex microbial communities that normally develop, a wide range of pre-genomic, genomic, and post-genomic tools is needed. The Biodesign team has unique expertise on using each kind of tool, and it's perspective article provides needed information about these tools and how they can be used to unravel the structures and functions of microbial communities involved in renewable bioenergy.

The authors conclude, "Information from these tools, when properly integrated with advanced engineering tools and material, should accelerate the rate at which microbial bioenergy processes can
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Contact: Joe Caspermeyer
joseph.caspermeyer@asu.edu
480-727-0369
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert

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