This molecular Swiss Army knife can boost biofuel output

New York, Sep 22 (IANS) Researchers have created a multifunctional hybrid protein that resembles a molecular Swiss Army knife in cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, organisms that have many potential uses for making green chemicals or biofuels.

In laboratory settings, the improved organisms excelled at photosynthesis, the process that plants use to convert light energy to chemical energy and later release it to fuel its activities.

The findings could ultimately lead to a device that could potentially improve plant photosynthesis and enhance its ability to remove carbon dioxide from atmosphere.

“The multifunctional protein we have built can be compared to a Swiss Army knife,” said lead study author Raul Gonzalez-Esquer from Michigan State University in the US.

“From known, existing parts, we have built a new protein that does several essential functions,” Gonzalez-Esquer noted.

By fabricating a synthetic protein that improves the assembly of the carbon-fixing factory of cyanobacteria, the team has done in a year what has taken millions of years to evolve, the study said.

“It is comparable to making coffee. Rather than getting an oven to roast the coffee beans, a grinder to process them and a brewing machine, we’ve built a single coffeemaker where it all happens in one place,” Gonzalez-Esquer said.

“The new tool takes raw material and produces the finished product with a smaller investment,” he noted.

The study appeared in the journal Plant Cell.

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