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What green algae are up to in the dark
Date:2/14/2013

bacteria. First they introduced the corresponding genes of the green algae into the gut bacterium Escherichia coli, for example, the gene for the pyruvate:ferredoxin oxidoreductase. E. coli then produced the proteins according to this blueprint. Happe's team isolated them from the bacterial cells and examined them like a construction kit. In the test tube, the biologists analysed how different combinations of proteins interacted with each other under specific environmental conditions.

"Ancient enzyme" discovered

In so doing, they found out that, under stress in the dark, the algae switch to a metabolic pathway which is normally only found in bacteria or single-celled parasites. "Chlamydmonas has an evolutionarily ancient enzyme", explains Jens Noth from the working group Photobiotechnology. "With the help of vitamin B1 and iron atoms, it gains energy from the breakdown of sugars." This energy is then used by other green algal enzymes, the hydrogenases, to form hydrogen. The unicellular microalgae switch on this metabolic pathway when they suddenly encounter oxygen-free conditions in the dark. Because, like humans, the green algae need oxygen to breathe if they cannot draw their energy from sunlight. The formation of hydrogen in the dark helps the cells to survive these stress condition. "With this knowledge, we have now found another piece of the puzzle to get an accurate picture of H2 production in Chlamydomonas", says Thomas Happe. "In future, this could also help to increase the biotechnologically relevant light-dependent H2 formation rate."


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Contact: Prof. Dr. Thomas Happe
thomas.happe@rub.de
49-234-322-7026
Ruhr-University Bochum
Source:Eurekalert

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