Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Taming a poison: Saving plants from cyanide with carbon dioxide

Date:
April 3, 2014
Source:
Saint Mary's University
Summary:
Cyanoformate -- a simple, unstable ion involved in the fruit-ripening process that has evaded detection for decades -- is better understood thanks to new research. The findings reveal that the surrounding medium greatly impacts the stability of cyanoformate. While this allows carbon dioxide to deactivate cyanide's killer capabilities in fruit, recognizing the factors governing cyanoformate's instability has a larger implication: understanding low-energy carbon dioxide 'catch-and-release.'

The scientific world is one step closer to understanding how nature uses carbon-capture to tame poisons, thanks to a recent discovery of cyanoformate by researchers at Saint Mary's University (Halifax, Canada) and the University of Jyväskylä (Finland). This simple ion -- which is formed when cyanide bonds to carbon dioxide -- is a by-product of the fruit-ripening process that has evaded detection for decades.

Chemists have long understood the roles presence of cyanide (CN−) and carbon dioxide (CO2) in fruit ripening, but have always observed them independently. This is the first time scientists have isolated the elusive cyanoformate anion (NCCO2−) and characterized its structure using crystallography and computational chemistry.

The results of the two-year study led by Dr. Jason Clyburne, Saint Mary's University, and Dr. Heikki M. Tuononen, University of Jyväskylä, were released today in Science, the world's preeminent scientific journal.

Their findings demonstrate the profound effect the surrounding medium has on the stability of cyanoformate. This situational stability allows carbon dioxide to deactivate cyanide's toxic capabilities at the enzyme's active site where chemical reactions take place. Subsequently, the cyanoformate migrates to the cytoplasm of the cell where it breaks down, releasing the toxic cyanide at a location where it can be dealt with. While this explains how the formation of cyanide does not halt the fruit ripening process, the implications extend far beyond plants and a single enzyme. Recognizing the factors governing the stability of cyanoformate furthers our understanding of carbon-capture, a process used to trap and store carbon dioxide in the environment.

"Here we have a perfect example of nature taming a poison, and what better way to learn the chemistry of carbon-capture than from nature itself?" says Dr. Jason Clyburne, Canada Research Chair in Environmental Science and Materials, and professor of Environmental Science and Chemistry at Saint Mary's University.

"One of the biggest challenges in carbon capture is finding a material that not only captures CO2, but easily releases it," says Luke Murphy, a Masters of Science candidate at Saint Mary's who prepared the crystalline material for the study. "Cyanoformate does both and can be used as a model to develop a greener alternative."

This discovery highlights the importance of applied chemistry to other areas of science and indicates there is still more to be learned about the chemistry of carbon dioxide in cells.

"The fact that cyanoformate was undetected for so long begs the question: What other simple chemistry have we missed?" asks Dr. Heikki M. Tuononen, Academy of Finland research fellow, and senior lecturer at University of Jyväskylä, Finland.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Saint Mary's University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. L. J. Murphy, K. N. Robertson, S. G. Harroun, C. L. Brosseau, U. Werner-Zwanziger, J. Moilanen, H. M. Tuononen, J. A. C. Clyburne. A Simple Complex on the Verge of Breakdown: Isolation of the Elusive Cyanoformate Ion. Science, 2014; 344 (6179): 75 DOI: 10.1126/science.1250808

Cite This Page:

Saint Mary's University. "Taming a poison: Saving plants from cyanide with carbon dioxide." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140403142023.htm>.
Saint Mary's University. (2014, April 3). Taming a poison: Saving plants from cyanide with carbon dioxide. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140403142023.htm
Saint Mary's University. "Taming a poison: Saving plants from cyanide with carbon dioxide." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140403142023.htm (accessed August 29, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Friday, August 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Volcano Erupts on Papua New Guinea

Raw: Volcano Erupts on Papua New Guinea

AP (Aug. 29, 2014) — Several communities were evacuated and some international flights were diverted on Friday after one of the most active volcanos in the region erupts. (Aug. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) — State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Have Figured Out Why Rocks Move In Death Valley

Scientists Have Figured Out Why Rocks Move In Death Valley

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) — The mystery of the moving rocks in Death Valley, California, has finally been solved. Scientists are pointing to a combo of water, ice and wind. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Big Waves, Minor Flooding from Hurricane

Big Waves, Minor Flooding from Hurricane

AP (Aug. 27, 2014) — Thundering surf spawned by Hurricane Marie pounded the Southern California coast Wednesday, causing minor flooding in a low-lying beach town. High surf warnings were posted for Los Angeles County south through Orange County. (Aug. 27) 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