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Bacteria breakthrough marks new era in cellular design and biofuel production

Posted December 13, 2017

Globally, there is a growing demand for the agricultural or renewable production of biofuels and other commodity chemicals, to enable a move away from fossil fuels.

The team has created nano-tubes that generate a scaffold inside bacteria.

The research, led by Professor Martin Warren at Kent’s School of Biosciences, working with Professor Dek Woolfson, Director of the Bristol BioDesign Institute, and Professor Paul Verkade from Bristol’s School of Biochemistry, is published in Nature Chemical Biology and has implications for the next generation of biofuel production.

The team has created nano-tubes that generate a scaffold inside bacteria. With as many as a thousand tubes fitting into each cell, the tubular scaffold can be used to increase the bacteria’s efficiency to make commodities.

The researchers designed protein molecules and developed techniques to allow E. coli to make long tubes that contain a coupling device to which other specific components can be attached. A production line of enzymes could then be arranged along the tubes, generating efficient internal factories for the coordinated production of important chemicals. Uitilising a form of molecular velcro to hold the components together, the team added one part of the fastener to the tube-forming protein and the other to specific enzymes to show that the enzymes can attach to the tubes.

By applying this new technology to enzymes required for the production of ethanol – an important biofuel – the researchers were able to increase alcohol production by over 200 per cent.

Source: University of Bristol

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