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Outsmarting algae -- RIT scientist finds the turn-off switch
Date:9/13/2011

Algaecide is no crime.

Consider that some strains of algae produce toxins lethal to wildlife, fish and plants. Even the less harmful varieties suck oxygen out of water, suffocating living creatures in lakes, ponds, pools and aquariums. Recent algal blooms in the Great Lakes, for instance, threaten critical ecosystems.

Rochester Institute of Technology scientist Andr Hudson and colleagues have figured out how to outsmart the organism.

"We have recently deciphered the structure of an essential enzyme in the photosynthetic organism that is a target for algaecide development," says Hudson, assistant professor in the School of Life Sciences in RIT's College of Science.

All organisms that undergo photosynthesisplants (multi-cellular), algae (single-cellular) and certain kinds of bacteriaproduce lysine, an amino acid, or a building block of protein for growth and development. Humans and animals cannot make lysine and must acquire the essential amino acid directly or indirectly from fruits and vegetables.

Hudson discovered a new pathway for lysine synthesis in plants and certain pathogenic bacteria in 2006 while working as a postdoctoral fellow at Rutgers University. His current research is aimed at finding targets for the enzymes associated with the lysine biosynthesis pathways.

"Since humans do not possess any of the enzymatic machinery to make lysineand now that we know that is it an essential enzyme in all photosynthetic organismswe can develop a compound that would block the enzyme from functioning in algae. It won't affect humans because we don't have the pathway(s) to begin with," Hudson says.

An important first step for algaecide development was the crystallization of the enzyme conducted by Hudson's colleague Renwick Dobson, professor at the University of Melbourne and University of Canterbury.

The process of protein crystallography separates proteins from the solution in which they are su
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Contact: Susan Gawlowicz
smguns@rit.edu
585-475-5061
Rochester Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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