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Biological switch paves way for improved biofuel production

Date:
June 25, 2012
Source:
Queen Mary, University of London
Summary:
A mechanism that controls the way organisms breathe or photosynthesize has been discovered by scientists. The research could pave the way for improved biofuel production.
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Scientists from Queen Mary, University of London have discovered a mechanism that controls the way that organisms breathe or photosynthesize, potentially paving the way for improved biofuel production.

Writing in the journal PNAS, Dr Lu-ning Lu and Professor Conrad Mullineaux from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences report that by exposing cells to different light conditions, they have changed the way in which electrons are transported.

Professor Mullineaux explains: "Any organism that breathes or photosynthesizes depends on tiny electrical circuits operating within biological membranes. We are trying to find out what controls these circuits: what makes the electrons take the routes that they do, and what switches are available to send the electrons to other destinations?"

Cyanobacteria are a kind of bacterium that both breathes and photosynthesizes and therefore has a complicated set of different possible electron transport pathways.

The team put specific fluorescent tags on some of the protein components involved in electron transport, and then viewed the live cells with a fluorescence microscope to see where those complexes are in the cell.

By studying the cells in this way, the team visualized a biological electrical switch in action. When they changed the conditions (for example by making the light brighter or dimmer), the cell responded by changing the position of the complexes, which leads to major changes in the pathways of electron transport.

Full understanding of these mechanisms could help with re-engineering of cyanobacteria for improved solar-powered biofuel production, for example.


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Queen Mary, University of London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Lu-Ning Liu, Samantha J. Bryan, Fang Huang, Jianfeng Yu, Peter J. Nixon, Peter R. Rich, and Conrad W. Mullineaux. Control of electron transport routes through redox-regulated redistribution of respiratory complexes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 25, 2012 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1120960109

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Queen Mary, University of London. "Biological switch paves way for improved biofuel production." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 June 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120625160403.htm>.
Queen Mary, University of London. (2012, June 25). Biological switch paves way for improved biofuel production. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 28, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120625160403.htm
Queen Mary, University of London. "Biological switch paves way for improved biofuel production." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120625160403.htm (accessed August 28, 2015).

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