More Effective Carbon Fixation



Researchers Engineer Biosynthetic Pathway for More Effective Carbon Fixation

A diagram of the carbon cycle, showing how carbon moves around the planet.(Credit: U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute)

It is a known fact that different varieties of organisms on earth extract enzymes to convert CO2 into organic compounds such as sugars (e.g. plants convert CO2 via photosynthesis). However, attempts at exploiting such potentials to convert CO2 into products of high value, e.g. renewable chemicals and biofuel, have not been successful enough. Although the increasing concentration of atmospheric CO2 is an issue, scientists view it as an opportunity.

A group of researchers at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg, Germany, have leveraged the DNA synthesis expertise of the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) to reverse engineer a biosynthetic pathway to enable more effective carbon fixation.

The innovative pathway is formed with a new CO2-fixing enzyme that can convert CO2 close to 20 times faster than the most prevalent natural enzyme that captures CO2 in plants by making use of sunlight as energy. The research work was reported in the journal Science, in the 18 November, 2016 issue.

We had seen how efforts to directly assemble synthetic pathways for CO2-fixation in a living organism did not succeed so far. So we took a radically different, reductionist approach by assembling synthetic principal components in a bottom-up fashion in a test tube.

Tobias Erb, MPI

The group started by working on multiple theoretical CO2-fixation paths that could lead to continuous carbon cycling. However, they did not discontinue the study there. “We did not restrict our design efforts to known enzymes, but considered all reactions that seemed biochemically feasible,” Erb said.

Read the full article: AZO Cleantech

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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