Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Hot new manufacturing tool: A temperature-controlled microbe

Many manufacturing processes rely on microorganisms to perform tricky chemical transformations or make substances from simple starting materials.

The authors of a study appearing in mBio®, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology, on April 17 have found a way to control a heat-loving microbe with a temperature switch: it makes a product at low temperatures but not at high temperatures. The innovation could make it easier to use microorganisms as miniature factories for the production of needed materials like biofuels.

This is the first time a targeted modification of a hyperthermophile (heat-loving microorganism) has been accomplished, say the authors, providing a new perspective on engineering microorganisms for bioproduct and biofuel formation.

Originally isolated from hot marine sediments, the hyperthermophile Pyrococcus furiosus grows best at temperatures around 100ºC (212ºF). P. furiosus is an archaeon, single-celled organisms that bear a resemblance to bacteria, but they excel at carrying out many processes that bacteria cannot accomplish. Like other hyperthermophiles, P. furiosus' enzymes are stable at the high temperatures that facilitate many industrial processes, making it a well-used tool in biotechnology and manufacturing. But not all products can be made at high heat. Some enzymes will only work at lower temperatures.

In the study in mBio®, the authors inserted a gene from another organism into P. furiosus and coaxed it to use that gene to make a new product by simply lowering the temperature. The donor organism, Caldicellulosiruptor bescii, prefers to grow at a relatively cool 78ºC, so the protein product of its gene, lactate dehydrogenase, is most stable at that comparatively low temperature.

The authors of the study inserted the lactate dehyrogenase gene into a strategic spot, right next to a cold shock promoter that "turns on" the genes around it when P. furiosus is out in the cold at 72ºC. This essentially gives scientists a switch for controlling lactate production: put the organism at 72ºC to turn on lactate production, restore it to 100ºC to turn it off, thus preventing the need for chemical inducers. What's more, since P. furiosus is mostly shut down at these lower temperatures, making the new product doesn't interfere with its metabolism, or vice-versa.

The lead author on the study, Michael Adams of the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at the University of Georgia, explains that this is the key benefit of this system: although P. furiosus now makes the enzyme that carries out the process, at these lower temperatures the organism's other metabolic processes don't get in the way.

"The hyperthermophile is essentially the bioreactor that contains the foreign enzymes," says Adams. P. furiosus just supplies cofactors and a cytoplasmic environment for the highly active foreign enzymes, according to Adams. This makes for a cleaner, more controllable reaction.

mBio® is an open access online journal published by the American Society for Microbiology to make microbiology research broadly accessible. The focus of the journal is on rapid publication of cutting-edge research spanning the entire spectrum of microbiology and related fields. It can be found online at

The American Society for Microbiology is the largest single life science society, composed of over 39,000 scientists and health professionals. ASM's mission is to advance the microbiological sciences as a vehicle for understanding life processes and to apply and communicate this knowledge for the improvement of health and environmental and economic well-being worldwide.

Jim Sliwa | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>