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Green and lean: Secreting bacteria eliminate cost barriers for renewable biofuel production
Date:5/26/2011

In a clever feat of genetic reprogramming of the cells, the enzymes are only produced when carbon dioxide ---a vital ingredient of bacterial growth---is removed from their environment.

"We first freed up fatty acids by triggering self-destruction of the bacteria by adding nickel," Liu said, "but this is not so good for the environment. So, this time we did it in a smarter way by stopping carbon dioxide supply. The strategy of adding nothing for recovering fuels from biomass is designed to drastically reduce processing costs."

"Genetics is a very powerful tool," added Liu, who recently presented the results at the 3rd Annual World Algae Summit in San Diego, California. "We have created a very flexible system that we can finely control. After teaching cyanobacteria to excrete fuels, we don't want to waste the useful lipids in the photosynthetic membranes, so we developed a greener way to recycle the remaining value of the biofactory."

The team tested fat-degrading enzymes, called lipases, from bacterial, fungal and guinea pig sources to see which would work best. These lipases are able work like molecular scissors, clipping off the fatty acids from the photosynthetic membranes. They also worked to optimize the growth conditions of their green recovery method, testing variables such as the cell culture density of the microbes, light intensity and agitation of the cultures.

The team's ingenuity rests in part with their ability to utilize the full repertoire of nature's toolkit. "Due to rapid DNA sequencing and public gene databases, we can now use this vast and ever-increasing store of gene sequences with powerful computer search methods to identify the best genes and proteins with optimal functions and capabilities independent of their origin in microbes, plants and animals," said Curtiss. "It is like being a kid in a candy store the size of the State of Arizona and finding the most delicious candy treat almost in the time to sna
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Contact: Joe Caspermeyer
joseph.caspermeyer@asu.edu
480-727-0369
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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