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.
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.
Prof Dr Nicole Frankenberg-Dinkel
Department of Biology
Tel.: +49 631/205-2353
Katrin Müller | Technische Universität Kaiserslautern
Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth
09.12.2016 | Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Plant-based substance boosts eyelash growth
09.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Polymerforschung IAP
Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.
Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
09.12.2016 | Life Sciences
09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine