Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Algae can take energy from other plants

Date:
November 20, 2012
Source:
Universitaet Bielefeld
Summary:
Flowers need water and light to grow. Even children learn that plants use sunlight to gather energy from earth and water. Biologists have made an astounding discovery that one plant has another way of doing this. They have confirmed for the first time that a plant not only engages in photosynthesis, but also has an alternative source of energy: it can draw it from other plants. This finding could also have a major impact on the future of bioenergy.

Biologists at Bielefeld University have added cellulose to green alga cultures and used biochemical and molecular-biological methods to show that the algae break down the cellulose into simple sugars and can use this as a source of energy.
Credit: Image courtesy of Universitaet Bielefeld

Flowers need water and light to grow. Even children learn that plants use sunlight to gather energy from earth and water. Members of Professor Dr. Olaf Kruse's biological research team at Bielefeld University have made a groundbreaking discovery that one plant has another way of doing this. They have confirmed for the first time that a plant, the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, not only engages in photosynthesis, but also has an alternative source of energy: it can draw it from other plants. This finding could also have a major impact on the future of bioenergy.

The research findings have been released on November 20 in the online journal Nature Communications.

Until now, it was believed that only worms, bacteria, and fungi could digest vegetable cellulose and use it as a source of carbon for their growth and survival. Plants, in contrast, engage in the photosynthesis of carbon dioxide, water, and light. In a series of experiments, Professor Dr. Olaf Kruse and his team cultivated the microscopically small green alga species Chlamydomonas reinhardtii in a low carbon dioxide environment and observed that when faced with such a shortage, these single-cell plants can draw energy from neighbouring vegetable cellulose instead.

The alga secretes enzymes (so-called cellulose enzymes) that 'digest' the cellulose, breaking it down into smaller sugar components. These are then transported into the cells and transformed into a source of energy: the alga can continue to grow.

'This is the first time that such a behaviour has been confirmed in a vegetable organism', says Professor Kruse. 'That algae can digest cellulose contradicts every previous textbook. To a certain extent, what we are seeing is plants eating plants'. Currently, the scientists are studying whether this mechanism can also be found in other types of alga. Preliminary findings indicate that this is the case.

In the future, this 'new' property of algae could also be of interest for bioenergy production. Breaking down vegetable cellulose biologically is one of the most important tasks in this field. Although vast quantities of waste containing cellulose are available from, for example, field crops, it cannot be transformed into biofuels in this form. Cellulose enzymes first have to break down the material and process it. At present, the necessary cellulose enzymes are extracted from fungi that, in turn, require organic material in order to grow. If, in future, cellulose enzymes can be obtained from algae, there would be no more need for the organic material to feed the fungi. Then even when it is confirmed that algae can use alternative nutrients, water and light suffice for them to grow in normal conditions.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Universitaet Bielefeld. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Olga Blifernez-Klassen, Viktor Klassen, Anja Doebbe, Klaudia Kersting, Philipp Grimm, Lutz Wobbe, Olaf Kruse. Cellulose degradation and assimilation by the unicellular phototrophic eukaryote Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Nature Communications, 2012; 3: 1214 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms2210

Cite This Page:

Universitaet Bielefeld. "Algae can take energy from other plants." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121120121913.htm>.
Universitaet Bielefeld. (2012, November 20). Algae can take energy from other plants. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121120121913.htm
Universitaet Bielefeld. "Algae can take energy from other plants." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121120121913.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 16, 2014) Crocodile farming has been a challenge in Zimbabwe in recent years do the economic collapse and the financial crisis. But as Ciara Sutton reports one of Europe's biggest suppliers of skins to the luxury market has come up with an unusual survival strategy - vegetarian food. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing

Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A research institute in Paris somehow misplaced more than 2,000 vials of the deadly SARS virus. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Three Rare White Tiger Cubs Debut at Zoo

Raw: Three Rare White Tiger Cubs Debut at Zoo

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) The Buenos Aires Zoo debuted a trio of rare white Bengal tiger cubs on Wednesday. (April 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins