Science News
from research organizations

Scientists discover how essential methane catalyst is made

Date:
February 22, 2017
Source:
University of Kent
Summary:
New ways to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into methane gas for energy use are a step closer after scientists discovered how bacteria make a component that facilitates the process. Recycling CO2 into energy has immense potential for making these emissions useful rather than a major factor in global warming. However, because the bacteria that can convert CO2 into methane, methanogens, are notoriously difficult to grow, their use in gas production remains limited.
Share:
FULL STORY

New ways to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into methane gas for energy use are a step closer after scientists discovered how bacteria make a component that facilitates the process.

Recycling CO2 into energy has immense potential for making these emissions useful rather than a major factor in global warming. However, because the bacteria that can convert CO2 into methane, methanogens, are notoriously difficult to grow, their use in gas production remains limited.

This challenge inspired a team of scientists led by Professor Martin Warren, of the University of Kent's School of Biosciences, to investigate how a key molecule, coenzyme F430, is made in these bacteria.

Although F430 -- the catalyst for the production process -- is structurally very similar to the red pigment found in red blood cells (haem) and the green pigment found in plants (chlorophyll), the properties of this bright yellow coenzyme allow methanogenic bacteria to breathe in carbon dioxide and exhale methane.

By understanding how essential components of the process of biological methane production, methanogenesis, such as coenzyme F430 are made scientists are one step closer to being able to engineer a more effective and obliging methane-producing bacterium.

The research teams have shown that coenzyme F430 is made from the same starting molecular template from which haem and chlorophyll are derived, but uses a different suite of enzymes to convert this starting material into F430. Key to this process is the insertion of a metal ion, which is glued into the centre of the coenzyme.

If the process of biological methane production (methanogenesis) could be engineered into bacteria that are easier to grow, such as the microbe E. coli, then engineered strains could be employed to catch carbon dioxide emissions and convert them into methane for energy production.


Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Kent. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Simon J. Moore, Sven T. Sowa, Christopher Schuchardt, Evelyne Deery, Andrew D. Lawrence, José Vazquez Ramos, Susan Billig, Claudia Birkemeyer, Peter T. Chivers, Mark J. Howard, Stephen E. J. Rigby, Gunhild Layer, Martin J. Warren. Elucidation of the biosynthesis of the methane catalyst coenzyme F430. Nature, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/nature21427

Cite This Page:

University of Kent. "Scientists discover how essential methane catalyst is made." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 February 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170222131439.htm>.
University of Kent. (2017, February 22). Scientists discover how essential methane catalyst is made. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 25, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170222131439.htm
University of Kent. "Scientists discover how essential methane catalyst is made." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170222131439.htm (accessed May 25, 2017).

RELATED STORIES