Despite the vast diversity of organisms on the planet that express enzymes for the conversion of carbon dioxide into such organic compounds as sugars – as plants do through photosynthesis – the efforts to harness these capabilities to transform CO2 into high-value products such as biofuel and renewable chemicals have met with limited success.
While increasing concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere poses a challenge, researchers also see it as an opportunity.
Now a team from the Max-Planck-Institute (MPI) for Terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg, Germany, by tapping the DNA synthesis expertise of the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) has reverse engineered a biosynthetic pathway for more effective carbon fixation. This novel pathway is based on a new CO2-fixing enzyme that is nearly 20 times faster than the most prevalent enzyme in nature responsible for capturing CO2 in plants by using sunlight as energy. The study was published in the November 18, 2016 issue of the journal Science.
“We had seen how efforts to directly assemble synthetic pathways for CO2-fixation in a living organism did not succeed so far,” said Tobias Erb of MPI, who led the study. “So we took a radically different, reductionist approach by assembling synthetic principal components in a bottom-up fashion in a test tube.”
The team started with several theoretical CO2-fixation routes that could result in continuous carbon cycling. But they didn’t stop there. “We did not restrict our design efforts to known enzymes, but considered all reactions that seemed biochemically feasible,” Erb said. Read more