Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New molecule may aid in production of biofuels and fungi-resistant plants

02.08.2005


In a recent study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, scientists report on the discovery of a new molecule that is essential for degradation of the biopolymer chitin. This new molecule could eventually aid in the engineering of fungi-resistant plants and could also lead to the discovery of similar molecules that can be used in cellulose-based biofuel production.



The research appears as the "Paper of the Week" in the August 5 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, an American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology journal.

"Chitin is an insoluble molecule that consists of tightly packed chains of polymerized sugars," explains study author Dr. Vincent G. H. Eijsink of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. "It is synthesized by different crustaceans, mollusks, algae, insects, fungi and yeasts and is a major structural component of these organisms. For example, chitin gives strength and stiffness to the shells/cuticles of shrimps and insects and to the cell walls of fungi. Because chitin is an abundant resource and, most importantly, because it occurs in several types of plague organisms and parasites, chitin degradation is of great interest to humanity. For example, insects might be combated by interfering with their chitin metabolism. Insect viruses need to degrade insect chitin for infection. Fungi may also be combated by degrading the chitin in their cell walls."


More than one billion tons of chitin are produced by insects, fungi, and marine organisms every year. Despite this abundant production, chitin does not accumulate in most ecosystems, indicating that the molecule is somehow degraded. Many aquatic and terrestrial microorganisms produce enzymes called chitinases which are responsible for breaking down chitin. Because chitin is a very tough molecule, chitinases have quite a challenge. In order to break the bonds between the sugar units, they must gain access to the bonds by somehow disrupting the packing of the sugar chains in the chitin molecule. How exactly chitinases overcome these challenges has been unclear until now.

Interested in learning more about how the breakdown of chitin occurs, Dr. Eijsink and his colleagues investigated chitin degradation by the soil bacterium Serratia marcescens. They discovered that in addition to producing chitinases, the bacterium also make a protein called CBP21 which binds to and disrupts the chitin polymer making it more accessible to degradation by chitinases. They showed that adding CBP21 dramatically speeds up the degradation of chitin by chitinases. CBP21 works by binding to chitin through highly specific interactions that disrupt the chitin structure making the individual sugar chains in the chitin polymer more amenable to enzymatic degradation.

The discovery of this new protein that participates in chitin degradation has many potential applications. For example, transgenic plants that expresses both chitinases and CBP21 would be able to combat fungi by degrading chitin in their cell walls. And, a better understanding of natural chitin turnover increases our ability to interfere with chitin metabolism in insects and other plague organisms.

CBP21 also has the potential to aid in the production of biofuel. "In principle, large quantities of chitin are available for exploration, primarily due to fishing and farming of crustaceans such as shrimps," says Dr. Eijsink. "However, a current lack of technology limits the exploitation of these waste streams. CBP21-like proteins may become an important tool for effective, enzymatic processing of this valuable resource. More in general, one might say that our discovery may lead to discovery of proteins with similar functions in cellulose processing. This may be of major important for the cellulose field and production of biofuel."

Nicole Kresge | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.asbmb.org
http://www.jbc.org
http://www.jbc.org/cgi/content/short/280/31/28492

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Hunting pathogens at full force
22.03.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

nachricht A 155 carat diamond with 92 mm diameter
22.03.2017 | Universität Augsburg

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Pulverizing electronic waste is green, clean -- and cold

22.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers hazard a ride in a 'drifting carousel' to understand pulsating stars

22.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New gel-like coating beefs up the performance of lithium-sulfur batteries

22.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>