Forum für Wissenschaft, Industrie und Wirtschaft

Hauptsponsoren:     3M 
Datenbankrecherche:

 

Engineering cells for more efficient biofuel production

20.02.2013
Yeast research takes a step toward production of alternatives to gasoline.

In the search for renewable alternatives to gasoline, heavy alcohols such as isobutanol are promising candidates. Not only do they contain more energy than ethanol, but they are also more compatible with existing gasoline-based infrastructure. For isobutanol to become practical, however, scientists need a way to reliably produce huge quantities of it from renewable sources.

MIT chemical engineers and biologists have now devised a way to dramatically boost isobutanol production in yeast, which naturally make it in small amounts. They engineered yeast so that isobutanol synthesis takes place entirely within mitochondria, cell structures that generate energy and also host many biosynthetic pathways. Using this approach, they were able to boost isobutanol production by about 260 percent.

Though still short of the scale needed for industrial production, the advance suggests that this is a promising approach to engineering not only isobutanol but other useful chemicals as well, says Gregory Stephanopoulos, an MIT professor of chemical engineering and one of the senior authors of a paper describing the work in the Feb. 17 online edition of Nature Biotechnology.

“It’s not specific to isobutanol,” Stephanopoulos says. “It’s opening up the opportunity to make a lot of biochemicals inside an organelle that may be much better suited for this purpose compared to the cytosol of the yeast cells.”

Stephanopoulos collaborated with Gerald Fink, an MIT professor of biology and member of the Whitehead Institute, on this research. The lead author of the paper is Jose Avalos, a postdoc at the Whitehead Institute and MIT.

Historically, researchers have tried to decrease isobutanol production in yeast, because it can ruin the flavor of wine and beer. However, “now there’s been a push to try to make it for fuel and other chemical purposes,” says Avalos, the paper’s lead author.

Yeast typically produce isobutanol in a series of reactions that take place in two different cell locations. The synthesis begins with pyruvate, a plentiful molecule generated by the breakdown of sugars such as glucose. Pyruvate is transported into the mitochondria, where it can enter many different metabolic pathways, including one that results in production of valine, an amino acid. Alpha-ketoisovalerate (alpha-KIV), a precursor in the valine and isobutanol biosynthetic pathways, is made in the mitochondria in the first phase of isobutanol production.

Valine and alpha-KIV can be transported out to the cytoplasm, where they are converted by a set of enzymes into isobutanol. Other researchers have tried to express all the enzymes needed for isobutanol biosynthesis in the cytoplasm. However, it’s difficult to get some of those enzymes to function in the cytoplasm as well as they do in the mitochondria.

The MIT researchers took the opposite approach: They moved the second phase, which naturally occurs in the cytoplasm, into the mitochondria. They achieved this by engineering the metabolic pathway’s enzymes to express a tag normally found on a mitochondrial protein, directing the cell to send them into the mitochondria.

This enzyme relocation boosted the production of isobutanol by 260 percent, and yields of two related alcohols, isopentanol and 2-methyl-1-butanol, went up even more — 370 and 500 percent, respectively.

There are likely several explanations for the dramatic increase, the researchers say. One strong possibility, though difficult to prove experimentally, is that clustering the enzymes together makes it more likely that the reactions will occur, Avalos says.

Another possible explanation is that moving the second half of the pathway into the mitochondria makes it easier for the enzymes to snatch up the limited supply of precursors before they can enter another metabolic pathway.

“Enzymes from the second phase, which are naturally out here in the cytoplasm, have to wait to see what comes out of the mitochondria and try to transform that. But when you bring them into the mitochondria, they’re better at competing with the pathways in there,” Avalos says.

The findings could have many applications in metabolic engineering. There are many situations where it could be advantageous to confine all of the steps of a reaction in a small space, which may not only boost efficiency but also prevent harmful intermediates from drifting away and damaging the cell.

The researchers are now trying to further boost isobutanol yields and reduce production of ethanol, which is still the major product of sugar breakdown in yeast.

“Knocking out the ethanol pathway is an important step in making this yeast suitable for production of isobutanol,” Stephanopoulos says. “Then we need to introduce isobutanol synthesis, replacing one with the other, to maintain everything balanced within the cell.”

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and Shell Global Solutions.

Written by: Anne Trafton, MIT News Office

Caroline McCall | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.mit.edu

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht New high energy density automotive battery system from Fraunhofer IISB and international partners
25.08.2015 | Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

nachricht New research may enhance display & LED lighting technology
10.08.2015 | University of Illinois College of Engineering

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: OU astrophysicist and collaborators find supermassive black holes in quasar nearest Earth

A University of Oklahoma astrophysicist and his Chinese collaborator have found two supermassive black holes in Markarian 231, the nearest quasar to Earth, using observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

The discovery of two supermassive black holes--one larger one and a second, smaller one--are evidence of a binary black hole and suggests that supermassive...

Im Focus: Optische Schalter - Lernen mit Licht

Einem deutsch-französischen Team ist es gelungen, einen lichtempfindlichen Schalter für Nervenzellen zu entwickeln. Dies ermöglicht neue Einblicke in die Funktionsweise von Gedächtnis und Lernen, aber auch in die Entstehung von Krankheiten.

Lernen ist nur möglich, weil die Verknüpfungen zwischen den Nervenzellen im Gehirn fortwährend umgebaut werden: Je häufiger bestimmte Reizübertragungswege...

Im Focus: What would a tsunami in the Mediterranean look like?

A team of European researchers have developed a model to simulate the impact of tsunamis generated by earthquakes and applied it to the Eastern Mediterranean. The results show how tsunami waves could hit and inundate coastal areas in southern Italy and Greece. The study is published today (27 August) in Ocean Science, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).

Though not as frequent as in the Pacific and Indian oceans, tsunamis also occur in the Mediterranean, mainly due to earthquakes generated when the African...

Im Focus: Membranprotein in Bern erstmals entschlüsselt

Dreidimensionale (3D) Atommodelle von Proteinen sind wichtig, um deren Funktion zu verstehen. Dies ermöglicht unter anderem die Entwicklung neuer Therapieansätze für Krankheiten. Berner Strukturbiologen ist es nun gelungen, die Struktur eines wichtigen Membranproteins zu entschlüsseln – dies gelingt relativ selten und ist eine Premiere in Bern.

Membranproteine befinden sich in den Wänden der Zellen, den Zellmembranen, und nehmen im menschlichen Körper lebenswichtige Funktionen wahr. Zu ihnen gehören...

Im Focus: Quantenbeugung an einem Hauch von Nichts

Die Quantenphysik besagt, dass sich auch massive Objekte wie Wellen verhalten und scheinbar an vielen Orten zugleich sein können. Dieses Phänomen kann nachgewiesen werden, indem man diese Materiewellen an einem Gitter beugt. Eine europäische Kollaboration hat nun erstmals die Delokalisation von massiven Molekülen an einem Gitter nachgewiesen, das nur noch eine einzige Atomlage dick ist. Dieses Experiment lotete die technischen Grenzen der Materiewellentechnologie aus und knüpft dabei an ein Gedankenexperiment von Bohr und Einstein an. Die Ergebnisse werden aktuell im Journal "Nature Nanotechnology" veröffentlicht.

Die quantenmechanische Wellennatur der Materie ist die Grundlage für viele moderne Technologien, wie z. B. die höchstauflösende Elektronenmikroskopie, die...

Alle Focus-News des Innovations-reports >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

IHR
JOB & KARRIERE
SERVICE
im innovations-report
in Kooperation mit academics
Veranstaltungen

Gravitationswellen im Einsteinjahr

28.08.2015 | Veranstaltungen

Strömungen in industriellen Anlagen sichtbar gemacht

28.08.2015 | Veranstaltungen

Konzepte gegen Fachkräftemangel: Demografiekonferenz in Halle

27.08.2015 | Veranstaltungen

 
B2B-VideoLinks
Weitere VideoLinks >>>
Aktuelle Beiträge

Siemens an der Sicherheit: Lösungen für jede Anforderung

28.08.2015 | Messenachrichten

Biofabrikation von künstlichen Blutgefäßen mit Laserlicht

28.08.2015 | Biowissenschaften Chemie

Forscher entwickeln Methode zur Manipulation von Molekülen

28.08.2015 | Physik Astronomie