A Photoenzyme Allows Microalgae to Produce Hydrocarbons
(ESRF) Chlorella is a single-cell freshwater alga belonging to a type of microalgae which are cultivated on an industrial scale and have potential for the production of energy-rich molecules. Researchers at the CEA (French Atomic Energy Commission), the CNRS (French National Centre for Scientific Research), the ESRF, INSERM (French National Institute of Health and Medical Research) and the Universities of Aix-Marseille, Grenoble Alps and Paris-Sud have discovered an enzyme in this algae which allows it to convert some of its constituent fatty acids into hydrocarbons using light energy only. The researchers believe that this is a major advance in the identification of these kind of biological mechanisms and opens up a new option for the synthesis of hydrocarbons by micro-organisms on an industrial scale.
In this study, researchers from the Institute of Biosciences and Biotechnologies of Aix-Marseille (CEA/CNRS/University of Aix-Marseille), identify this key enzyme for the synthesis of hydrocarbons, by following its activity and determining a list of potential candidate proteins using a proteomic analysis conducted at the laboratory of Large scale biology (CEA/INSERM/University of Grenoble Alps). The expression in the bacterium E. coli of the encoding gene for the main candidate protein has shown evidence of the production of hydrocarbons, thereby demonstrating that this enzyme is both necessary and sufficient for hydrocarbon synthesis. Characteristic analysis of the pure enzyme revealed that it is capable of splitting a fatty acid into a hydrocarbon molecule and a CO2molecule, and that this activity requires light. READ MORE