Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Viruses cause bacteria to produce pink pigments

05.04.2016

Study by the University of Kaiserslautern

Plants use certain colour pigments in order to convert light into energy by way of photosynthesis. They allow plants to gather light energy. This also works in a similar way for microbes, for instance cyanobacteria.


Viruses from the ocean carry the genetic information for the turnover of the green pigment biliverdin to the pink pigment phycoerythrobilin.

The fact that a very large number of viruses are able to contribute towards pigment production has now been demonstrated by biologists from the University of Kaiserslautern with a colleague from Israel. The viruses introduce genetic material into the bacteria which then allows them to produce the pink-coloured pigments. The study has now been published in the renowned scientific journal ‘Environmental Microbiology’.

Cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae) and other oceanic bacteria are able to convert carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates and oxygen with the help of sunlight, just like plants. “They use light-harvesting complexes in order to capture the energy from the light,” says microbiology Professor Nicole Frankenberg-Dinkel from the University of Kaiserslautern.

“These consist of proteins and colour pigments.” The latter are also responsible for the characteristic colouration. In the case of plants, for example, this is the green pigment ‘chlorophyll’, in cyanobacteria this is the blue pigment ‘phycocyanobilin’ and the pink pigment ‘phycoerythrobilin’.

“The synthesis of these pigments is already well understood,” the microbiologist adds. “So far researchers have only been able to demonstrate their presence in organisms which release oxygen through the process of photosynthesis.” In addition to this form of conventional photosynthesis performed by plants and cyanobacteria, there are also other variants that do not release any oxygen.

The biologists at Kaiserslautern sought to investigate, together with their Israeli research colleague and bioinformatician Oded Béjà (from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology), the extent to which pigment synthesis is prevalent in certain marine regions. The biosynthesis of pink pigment ‘phycoerythrobilin’ was the focus of their work.

“The genetic information for the synthesis of the pink pigment is widespread throughout all the world’s oceans,” says the professor. This is where the researchers made a notable discovery: this information is wide spread in viruses.

“The viruses carry genetic information which can be used to produce the pink-coloured pigments,” Frankenberg-Dinkel explains. The viruses introduce this genetic information into bacterial cells which enable them to synthesise the pink pigment. “What is new is that we are able to use bioinformatic analyses to determine the type of viruses which carry this genetic information”, Frankenberg-Dinkel continues. “We were able to show that the viruses most likely affect those microbes for which we do not yet know what purpose the pigment serves.”

For her study, Frankenberg-Dinkel and her team analysed datasets obtained from metagenome databases. “These contain all the genetic information of all the organisms we would usually extract during a field trip at sea, for example,” the researcher explains. “This technique allows us to gain a detailed insight into the ecosystem without having to investigate it on location.”

The biologists from the University of Kaiserslautern work closely with their colleague from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. This cooperation is funded by the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development.

The study was published in the renowned scientific journal ‘Environmental Microbiology’: Ledermann, B., Beja, O. & Frankenberg-Dinkel, N. (2016) New biosynthetic pathway for pink pigments from uncultured oceanic viruses.
doi:10.1111/1462-2920.13290

For enquiries:
Prof Dr Nicole Frankenberg-Dinkel
Department of Biology
Email: nfranken@bio.uni-kl.de
Tel.: +49 631/205-2353

Katrin Müller | Technische Universität Kaiserslautern
Further information:
http://www.uni-kl.de

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht BigH1 -- The key histone for male fertility
14.12.2017 | Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)

nachricht Guardians of the Gate
14.12.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Plasmonic biosensors enable development of new easy-to-use health tests

14.12.2017 | Health and Medicine

New type of smart windows use liquid to switch from clear to reflective

14.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

BigH1 -- The key histone for male fertility

14.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>