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Microbe that can handle ionic liquids
Date:5/14/2012

n search of such microbes, a team of JBEI researchers led by microbiologist and PNAS paper co-author Kristen DeAngelis ventured into the El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico, a tropical rain forest where microbial communities have demonstrated exceptionally high rates of biomass decomposition, and a tolerance to high osmotic pressures of the sort generated by exposure to ionic liquids. They returned with a prime candidate in the SCF1 strain of Enterobacter lignolyticus.

"We first determined that the SCF1 strain of Enterobacter lignolyticus grows in the presence of the ionic liquid [C2mim]Cl at concentrations comparable to the concentrations that remain in the cellulose after pretreatment and recovery," Thelen says. "Next, through a combination of phenotypic growth assays, phospholipid fatty acid analysis, and RNA sequencing technologies, we investigated the mechanisms by which SCF1 tolerates this ionic liquid."

Working in collaboration with researchers at DOE's Joint Genome Institute, another multi-institutional partnership led by Berkeley Lab, Thelen and Simmons and their JBEI colleagues developed a preliminary model of ionic liquid tolerance for SCF1.

"Our model suggests that SCF1 bacteria resist the toxic effect of the [C2mim]Cl ionic liquid by altering the permeability of their cell membrane and pumping the toxic chemical out of the cell before damage occurs," Thelen says. "These detoxifying mechanisms are known to be involved in bacterial responses to stress, but not in a coordinated manner as we have shown for the response of SCF1 to ionic liquid."

Thelen says the information gained from this study will be used at JBEI to help engineer new fuel-producing microbes that can tolerate ionic liquid pretreatments. Beyond biofuels, the techniques developed in this study should also be applicable to the screening of microbial responses to other chemical compounds, such as antibiotics.


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Contact: Lynn Yarris
lcyarris@lbl.gov
510-486-5375
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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