Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Tricking algae's biological clock boosts production of drugs, biofuels

Date:
November 7, 2013
Source:
Vanderbilt University
Summary:
Tricking algae’s biological clock to remain in its daytime setting can dramatically boost the amount of commercially valuable compounds that these simple marine plants can produce when they are grown in constant light.

This is Antarctic cyanobacteria.
Credit: Couresy of the Institute of Botany, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic

Tricking algae's biological clock to remain in its daytime setting can dramatically boost the amount of valuable compounds that these simple marine plants can produce when they are grown in constant light.

Related Articles


That is the conclusion of a "proof of concept" experiment described in the Dec. 2 issue of the journal Current Biology. The study found that when the biological clocks of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) were stopped in their daylight setting, the amount of several biomolecules that they were genetically altered to produce increased by as much as 700 percent when grown in constant light.

"We have shown that manipulating cyanobacteria's clock genes can increase its production of commercially valuable biomolecules," said Carl Johnson, Stevenson Professor of Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt University, who performed the study with collaborators at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, MD and Waseda University in Tokyo. "In the last 10 years, we have figured out how to stop the circadian clocks in most species of algae and in many higher plants as well, so the technique should have widespread applicability."

If it lives up to its promise, bioclock stopping could have significant economic benefits: Microalgae are used for a wide variety of commercial applications ranging from anti-cancer drugs to cosmetics to bioplastics to biofuels to neutraceuticals. In addition, biotech companies are currently rushing to set up "biofactories" that use microorganisms to create a wide variety of substances that are too difficult or expensive to synthesize using conventional chemical methods. Many of them are based on microorganisms that have biological clocks.

In 2004, Johnson was a member of the team that determined the molecular structure of a circadian clock protein for the first time. Subsequent work mapped the entire clock mechanism in cyanobacteria, which is the simplest bioclock found in nature. The researchers discovered that the clock consisted of three proteins: KaiA, KaiB and KaiC. Detailed knowledge of the clock's structure allowed them to determine how to switch the clock on and off.

In the current study, the researchers discovered that two components of the clock, KaiA and KaiC, act as switches that turn the cell's daytime and nighttime genes on and off. They have dubbed this "yin-yang" regulation. When KaiA is upregulated -- produced in larger amounts -- and KaiC is downregulated -- produced in smaller amounts -- then the 95 percent of cell's genes that are active during daylight are turned on, and the 5 percent of the cell's genes that operate during the night are turned off. However, when KaiC is upregulated and KaiA is downregulated then the day genes are turned off and the night genes are turned on.

"As a result, all we have to do to lock the biological clock into its daylight configuration is to genetically upregulate the expression of KaiA, which is a simple manipulation in the genetically malleable cyanobacteria," Johnson said.

To see what effects this capability has on the bacteria's ability to produce commercially important compounds, the researchers inserted a gene for human insulin in some of the cyanobacteria cells, a gene for a fluorescent protein (luciferase) in other cells and a gene for hydrogenase, an enzyme that produces hydrogen gas, in yet others. They found that the cells with the locked clocks produced 200 percent more hydrogenase, 500 percent more insulin and 700 percent more luciferase when grown in constant light than they did when the genes were inserted in cells with normally functioning clocks.

Coauthors of the study include Research Associate Professor Yao Xu, Postdoctoral Fellow Ximing Qin and Graduate Student Jing Xiong from Vanderbilt; Assistant Professor Philip Weyman and Group Leader Qing Xu from the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Md., and Graduate Student Miki Umetani and Professor Hideo Iwasaki at Waseda University in Tokyo. The research was funded by National Institute of General Medical Sciences grants GM067152 and GM088595, Department of Energy grant DE-FG36-05GO15027, Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science grants 23657138 and 23687002, the Asahi Glass Foundation and the Yoshida Scholarship Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Vanderbilt University. The original article was written by David Salisbury. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Yao Xu, PhilipD. Weyman, Miki Umetani, Jing Xiong, Ximing Qin, Qing Xu, Hideo Iwasaki, CarlHirschie Johnson. Circadian Yin-Yang Regulation and Its Manipulation to Globally Reprogram Gene Expression. Current Biology, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.10.011

Cite This Page:

Vanderbilt University. "Tricking algae's biological clock boosts production of drugs, biofuels." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 November 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131107122735.htm>.
Vanderbilt University. (2013, November 7). Tricking algae's biological clock boosts production of drugs, biofuels. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131107122735.htm
Vanderbilt University. "Tricking algae's biological clock boosts production of drugs, biofuels." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131107122735.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) Polish scientists isolate bacteria from earthworm intestines which they say may be used in antibiotics and cancer treatments. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Existing Chemical Compounds Could Revive Failing Antibiotics, Says Danish Scientist

Existing Chemical Compounds Could Revive Failing Antibiotics, Says Danish Scientist

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) A team of scientists led by Danish chemist Jorn Christensen says they have isolated two chemical compounds within an existing antipsychotic medication that could be used to help a range of failing antibiotics work against killer bacterial infections, such as Tuberculosis. Jim Drury went to meet him. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) Millions of monarch butterflies begin to descend onto Mexico as part of their annual migration south. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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