Navigation Links
Metabolism in reverse: Making biofuels at full-throttle pace
Date:8/10/2011

HOUSTON -- (Aug. 10, 2011) -- In a biotechnological tour de force, Rice University engineering researchers this week unveiled a new method for rapidly converting simple glucose into biofuels and petrochemical substitutes. In a paper published online in Nature, Rice's team described how it reversed one of the most efficient of all metabolic pathways -- the beta oxidation cycle -- to engineer bacteria that produce biofuel at a breakneck pace.

Just how fast are Rice's single-celled chemical factories? On a cell-per-cell basis, the bacteria produced the butanol, a biofuel that can be substituted for gasoline in most engines, about 10 times faster than any previously reported organism.

"That's really not even a fair comparison because the other organisms used an expensive, enriched feedstock, and we used the cheapest thing you can imagine, just glucose and mineral salts," said Ramon Gonzalez, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Rice and lead co-author of the Nature study.

Gonzalez's laboratory is in a race with hundreds of labs around the world to find green methods for producing chemicals like butanol that have historically come from petroleum.

"We call these 'drop-in' fuels and chemicals, because their structure and properties are very similar, sometimes identical, to petroleum-based products," he said. "That means they can be 'dropped in,' or substituted, for products that are produced today by the petrochemical industry."

Butanol is a relatively short molecule, with a backbone of just four carbon atoms. Molecules with longer carbon chains have been even more troublesome for biotech producers to make, particularly molecules with chains of 10 or more carbon atoms. Gonzalez said that's partly because researchers have focused on ramping up the natural metabolic processes that cells use to build long-chain fatty acids. Gonzalez and students Clementina Dellomonaco, James Clomburg and Elliot Miller took a completely different approach.

"Rather than going with the process nature uses to build fatty acids, we reversed the process that it uses to break them apart," Gonzalez said. "It's definitely unconventional, but it makes sense because the routes nature has selected to build fatty acids are very inefficient compared with the reversal of the route it uses to break them apart."

The beta oxidation process is one of biology's most fundamental, Gonzalez said. Species ranging from single-celled bacteria to human beings use beta oxidation to break down fatty acids and generate energy.

In the Nature study, Gonzalez's team reversed the beta oxidation cycle by selectively manipulating about a dozen genes in the bacteria Escherichia coli. They also showed that selective manipulations of particular genes could be used to produce fatty acids of particular lengths, including long-chain molecules like stearic acid and palmitic acid, which have chains of more than a dozen carbon atoms.

"This is not a one-trick pony," Gonzalez said. "We can make many kinds of specialized molecules for many different markets. We can also do this in any organism. Some producers prefer to use industrial organisms other than E. coli, like algae or yeast. That's another advantage of using reverse-beta oxidation, because the pathway is present in almost every organism."


'/>"/>

Contact: Jade Boyd
jadeboyd@rice.edu
713-348-6778
Rice University
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. UNC-Duke ties lead to collaborative finding about cell division & metabolism
2. Modeling plant metabolism to optimize oil production
3. New book on intermediary metabolism reveals intriguing complexity
4. Marine snails get a metabolism boost
5. Jefferson researchers unlock key to personalized cancer medicine using tumor metabolism
6. At EB2011: The role of metabolism in disease
7. Body weight regulation and metabolism focus of workshop
8. Hot-bunking bacterium recycles iron to boost ocean metabolism
9. Metabolism models may explain why Alzheimers disease kills some neuron types first
10. U of I scientists develop tool to trace metabolism of cancer-fighting tomato compounds
11. Research targets basic metabolism of disease-causing fungi, bacteria
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Metabolism in reverse: Making biofuels at full-throttle pace
(Date:2/8/2017)... 2017 The biometrics market has reached ... of organizations, desires to better authenticate or identify ... and challenge questions), biometrics is quickly working its ... market is driven by use cases, though there ... enterprise uses cases, with consumer-facing use cases encompassing ...
(Date:2/6/2017)... , Feb. 6, 2017 According to ... are driving border authorities to continue to embrace ... there are 2143 Automated Border Control (ABC) eGates ... deployed at more than 163 ports of entry ... to 2016 achieving a combined CAGR of 37%. ...
(Date:2/2/2017)... 1, 2017  Central to its deep commitment ... worldwide, The Japan Prize Foundation today announced the ... pushed the envelope in their respective fields of ... scientists are being recognized with the 2017 Japan ... only contribute to the advancement of science and ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/16/2017)... ... ... EIT Digital has launched work to develop a new Smart IOT ... to get under way for the framework, which is designed to reduce the use ... to be transferred eventually to other industries that also require efficient IoT and management ...
(Date:2/16/2017)... , Feb. 16, 2017  MDNA Life ... the development of liquid biopsy tests based on ... into an exclusive license agreement with its first ... proprietary liquid biopsy test for prostate cancer, the ... Korea . This is the first overseas ...
(Date:2/16/2017)... Feb. 16, 2017   Biostage, Inc. (Nasdaq: ... biotechnology company developing bioengineered organ implants to treat cancers ... trachea, announced today the closing on February 15, 2017 ... of common stock and warrants to purchase 20,000,000 shares ... million. The offering was priced at $0.40 per share ...
(Date:2/16/2017)... N.J. , Feb. 16, 2017  Champions Oncology, ... in the development and sale of advanced technology solutions ... oncology drugs, today announced the addition of new cohorts ... These new models will expand Champions, product line ... head and neck cancer, AML, and non-small cell lung ...
Breaking Biology Technology: