Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Shedding New Light on Proteorhodopsin

12.02.2007
New light has been shed on proteorhodopsin, the light-sensitive protein found in many marine bacteria. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California at Berkeley have demonstrated that when the ability to respire oxygen is impaired, bacterium equipped with proteorhodopsin will switch to solar power to carry out vital life processes.

“Our research shows that proteorhodopsin contributes to a bacterial cell’s energy balance only under certain environmental conditions, namely when the cell’s ability to respire has been impaired,” said Jan Liphardt, a biophysicist who holds a joint appointment as a Divisional Fellow in Berkeley Lab's Physical Biosciences Division (PBD) and the Physics Department of UC Berkeley (UCB). “By harvesting light, proteorhodopsin enables bacterial cells to supplement respiration as a cellular energy source. This ability to withstand oxygen deprivation probably explains why so many ocean bacteria express proteorhodopsin.”

Liphardt said that the solar power option represents a potentially significant boost for efforts to develop alternatives to fossil fuel energy sources. Microbes that can simultaneously harvest energy from several different sources may be better at producing biofuels than microbes that can only utilize a single energy source.

The results of this study appear in a paper published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), entitled: Light-powering Escherichia coli with proteorhodopsin. Co-authoring the paper with Liphardt were UCB graduate students Jessica Walter and Derek Greenfield, and Carlos Bustamante, who also holds a joint Berkeley Lab-UCB appointment and is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator.

There was a great deal of excitement in the biology community in 2000 when proteorhodopsin was first discovered encoded within the genomes of uncultivated marine bacteria. The discovery implied that such bacteria possessed phototrophic as well as respiratory capabilities. This would be a critical adaptation for seafaring microbes because the world’s oceans are permeated with “dead zones,” areas that lack sufficient oxygen to sustain life.

Subsequent studies established that proteorhodopsin is a light-driven proton pump, able to transport protons across cellular membranes in order to create stored electrochemical energy. In this respect, it is similar to another protein, bacteriorhodopsin, that’s used by bacteria in salt ponds to supplement respiration. However, in experiments in which marine bacteria endowed with proteorhodopsin were exposed to light, there was no response. This begged the question: What does proteorhodopsin actually do?

A recent study out of the University of Kalmar in Sweden, led by Jarone Pinhassi, showed that light could be used to stimulate the growth of some types of marine bacteria carrying proteorhodopsin. This indicated that such bacteria can use a form of photosynthesis to supplement respiration as an energy source, but the extent to which light could be used to replace respiration was still unknown.

“Our thinking was that if you had a system that could harvest energy from two different sources and you knocked out one of those sources then you would probably maximize the alternative energy source,” Liphardt said. “Think of it like a capacitor. If a capacitor is already fully charged and you connect a battery to it nothing happens. However, if you drain the capacitor and then connect a battery, a current will flow.”

To observe proteorhodopsin in action and measure its effects, Liphardt and his co-authors genetically engineered a strain of Escherichia coli that would express the light-sensitive protein.

Said Walter, “The energy metabolism of E. coli is well understood so it served as an excellent testbed for observing proteorhodopsin activity when the microbe’s ability to respire is suddenly impaired. We impaired respiration through either oxygen depletion or the respiratory poison azide.”

The Berkeley researchers monitored single cells of E. coli and observed the response to light of the proton motive force (pmf), the electrochemical potential of protons across cellular membranes that bacteria use as the energy source to, among other functions, power the rotary flagellar motor which enables them to swim.

“We found that if we shined light on our E. coli cells when their respiration was impaired, they would swim or stop depending on the light’s color,” said Walter. “Proteorhodopsin has an absorption spectrum that peaks in the green wavelengths, so the cells swam when they were exposed to green light, but stopped when they were exposed to red light.”

In the absence of the azide respiratory poison, green light had no effect on the flagellar motors of these proteorhodopsin-equipped E. coli. By measuring the pmf of individual illuminated cells under different concentrations of azide or various degrees of lighting, the Berkeley researchers were able to quantify the coupling between light-driven and respiratory proton currents. At the highest azide concentrations, the average cell velocity increased 70-percent upon green light illumination. In the control study, normal E. coli cells, which do not not express proteorhodopsin, had no response to the green light.

The next step in this work, Liphardt said, is to optimize the amount of light that can be collected in cells enhanced with proteorhodopsin. For this the researchers will need to identify the most efficient forms of the protein, then manipulate microbial genomes through the addition or deletion of key genes.

This work was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, Energy Biosciences Program, the University of California, Berkeley, the Hellman Faculty Fund, the Sloan and Searle foundations, and the National Science Foundation for Graduate Research Support.

Berkeley Lab is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory located in Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified scientific research and is managed by the University of California.

Lynn Yarris | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http:// www.lbl.gov
http://www.lbl.gov/Science-Articles/Archive/PBD-proteorhodopsin.html

Further reports about: Azide Coli E. coli Liphardt Respiratory energy source proteorhodopsin respiration

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Seeing on the Quick: New Insights into Active Vision in the Brain
15.08.2018 | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

nachricht New Approach to Treating Chronic Itch
15.08.2018 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

Im Focus: Lining up surprising behaviors of superconductor with one of the world's strongest magnets

Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur

What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

2018 Work Research Conference

25.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

15.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Diving robots find Antarctic winter seas exhale surprising amounts of carbon dioxide

15.08.2018 | Earth Sciences

Early opaque universe linked to galaxy scarcity

15.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>