Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors
Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > The Greenest Diet: Bacteria Switch to Eating Carbon Dioxide: Such bacteria may, in the future, contribute to new, carbon-efficient technologies

Abstract:
Bacteria in the lab of Prof. Ron Milo of the Weizmann Institute of Science have not just sworn off sugar – they have stopped eating all of their normal solid food, existing instead on carbon dioxide (CO2) from their environment. That is, they were able to build all of their biomass from air. This feat, which involved nearly a decade of rational design, genetic engineering and a sped-up version of evolution in the lab, was reported this week in Cell. The findings point to means of developing, in the future, carbon-neutral fuels.

The Greenest Diet: Bacteria Switch to Eating Carbon Dioxide: Such bacteria may, in the future, contribute to new, carbon-efficient technologies

Rehovot, Israel | Posted on November 27th, 2019

The study began by identifying crucial genes for the process of carbon fixation – the way plants take carbon from CO2 for the purpose of turning it into such biological molecules as protein, DNA, etc. The research team added and rewired the needed genes. They found that many of the “parts” for the machinery that were already present in the bacterial genome could be used as is. They also inserted a gene that allowed the bacteria to get energy from a readily available substance called formate that can be produced directly from electricity and air and which is apt to “give up” electrons to the bacteria.

Just giving the bacteria the “means of production” was not enough, it turned out, for them to make the switch. There was still a need for another trick to get the bacteria to use this machinery properly, and this involved a delicate balancing act. Together with Roee Ben-Nissan, Yinon Bar-On and other members of Milo’s team in the Institute’s Plant and Environmental Sciences Department, Gleizer used lab evolution, as the technique is known; in essence, the bacteria were gradually weaned off the sugar they were used to eating. At each stage, cultured bacteria were given just enough sugar to keep them from complete starvation, as well as plenty of CO2 and formate. As some “learned” to develop a taste for CO2 (giving them an evolutionary edge over those that stuck to sugar), their descendants were given less and less sugar until after about a year of adapting to the new diet some of them eventually made the complete switch, living and multiplying in an environment that served up pure CO2.

To check whether the bacteria were not somehow “snacking” on other nutrients, some of the evolved E. coli were fed CO2 containing a heavy isotope – C13. Then the bacterial body parts were weighed, and the weight they had gained checked against the mass that would be added from eating the heavier version of carbon. The analysis showed the carbon atoms in the body of the bacteria were all extracted directly from CO2 alone.

The research team then set out to characterize the newly-evolved bacteria. What changes were essential to adapting to this new diet? While some of the genetic changes they identified may have been tied to surviving hunger, others appeared to regulate the synchronization of the steps of making building blocks through accumulation from CO2. “The cell needs to balance between toxic congestion and bankruptcy,” says Bar-On. Yet other changes the team noted had to do with transcription – regulating how existing genes are turned on and off. “Further research will hopefully uncover exactly how these genes have adjusted their activities,” says Ben-Nissan.

The researchers believe that the bacteria’s new “health kick” could ultimately be healthy for the planet. Milo points out that today, biotech companies use cell cultures to produce commodity chemicals. Such cells – yeast or bacteria – could be induced to live on a diet of CO2 and renewable electricity, and thus be weaned from the large amounts of corn syrup they live on today. Bacteria could be further adapted so that rather than taking their energy from a substance such as formate, they might be able to get it straight up -- say electrons from a solar collector – and then store that energy for later use as fuel in the form of carbon fixed in their cells. Such fuel would be carbon-neutral if the source of its carbon was atmospheric CO2.

“Our lab was the first to pursue the idea of changing the diet of a normal heterotroph (one that eats organic substances) to convert it to autotrophism (‘living on air’),” says Milo. “It sounded impossible at first, but it has taught us numerous lessons along the way, and in the end we showed it indeed can be done. Our findings are a significant milestone toward our goal of efficient, green scientific applications.”



Prof. Ron Milo is the Head of the Mary and Tom Beck - Canadian Center for Alternative Energy Research. His research is supported by the Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program; the Larson Charitable Foundation New Scientist Fund; the Ullmann Family Foundation; Dana and Yossie Hollander; and the European Research Council. Prof. Milo is the incumbent of the Charles and Louise Gartner Professorial Chair.

####

About Weizmann Institute of Science
The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, is one of the world's top-ranking multidisciplinary research institutions. Noted for its wide-ranging exploration of the natural and exact sciences, the Institute is home to scientists, students, technicians and supporting staff. Institute research efforts include the search for new ways of fighting disease and hunger, examining leading questions in mathematics and computer science, probing the physics of matter and the universe, creating novel materials and developing new strategies for protecting the environment.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Yael Edelman

Department of Media Relations
Weizmann Institute of Science
P.O. Box 26, Rehovot 76100
Israel
Tel: 972 8 934 3852

Copyright © Weizmann Institute of Science

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

A step ahead in the race toward ultrafast imaging of single particles April 9th, 2020

House cleaning on the nanoscale: FAU scientists develop method for cleaning surfaces at the nanoscale April 8th, 2020

A twist connecting magnetism and electronic-band topology: Combined optical and torque measurements establish the microscopic mechanism linking magnetism and electronic-band topology in a Dirac material April 7th, 2020

New measurements reveal evidence of elusive particles in a newly-discovered superconductor: Material may be natural home to quasiparticle hiding for decades April 3rd, 2020

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

A step ahead in the race toward ultrafast imaging of single particles April 9th, 2020

A twist connecting magnetism and electronic-band topology: Combined optical and torque measurements establish the microscopic mechanism linking magnetism and electronic-band topology in a Dirac material April 7th, 2020

A combined optical transmitter and receiver: Bidirectional optical signal transmission between two identical devices using perovskite diodes April 3rd, 2020

3D reconstructions of individual nanoparticles: Liquid phase electron microscopy illuminates 3D atomic structures of platinum nanoparticles, advancing full control of nanoengineering April 3rd, 2020

Possible Futures

A step ahead in the race toward ultrafast imaging of single particles April 9th, 2020

House cleaning on the nanoscale: FAU scientists develop method for cleaning surfaces at the nanoscale April 8th, 2020

A twist connecting magnetism and electronic-band topology: Combined optical and torque measurements establish the microscopic mechanism linking magnetism and electronic-band topology in a Dirac material April 7th, 2020

New measurements reveal evidence of elusive particles in a newly-discovered superconductor: Material may be natural home to quasiparticle hiding for decades April 3rd, 2020

Discoveries

A step ahead in the race toward ultrafast imaging of single particles April 9th, 2020

House cleaning on the nanoscale: FAU scientists develop method for cleaning surfaces at the nanoscale April 8th, 2020

A twist connecting magnetism and electronic-band topology: Combined optical and torque measurements establish the microscopic mechanism linking magnetism and electronic-band topology in a Dirac material April 7th, 2020

New measurements reveal evidence of elusive particles in a newly-discovered superconductor: Material may be natural home to quasiparticle hiding for decades April 3rd, 2020

Announcements

A step ahead in the race toward ultrafast imaging of single particles April 9th, 2020

House cleaning on the nanoscale: FAU scientists develop method for cleaning surfaces at the nanoscale April 8th, 2020

A twist connecting magnetism and electronic-band topology: Combined optical and torque measurements establish the microscopic mechanism linking magnetism and electronic-band topology in a Dirac material April 7th, 2020

New measurements reveal evidence of elusive particles in a newly-discovered superconductor: Material may be natural home to quasiparticle hiding for decades April 3rd, 2020

Environment

Electric jolt to carbon makes better water purifier March 24th, 2020

Study: Nanoparticles produced from burning coal result in damage to mice lungs, suggesting toxicity to humans February 5th, 2020

Toward safer disposal of printed circuit boards January 16th, 2020

Research shows old newspapers can be used to grow carbon nanotubes: Newspapers provide a green, economical way to produce carbon nanotubes November 22nd, 2019

Energy

Graphene nanotubes can increase the number of wind turbines to decrease CO2 emissions March 31st, 2020

Quantum phenomenon governs organic solar cells: Vibronic coherence contributes to photocurrent generation in organic semiconductor heterojunction diodes March 30th, 2020

3D hierarchically porous nanostructured catalyst helps efficiently reduce CO2? This new catalyst will bring CO2 one step closer to serving as a sustainable energy source March 13th, 2020

Water-free way to make MXenes could mean new uses for the promising nanomaterials: Discovery by Drexel researchers could open new application for MXene materials March 13th, 2020

Grants/Sponsored Research/Awards/Scholarships/Gifts/Contests/Honors/Records

A combined optical transmitter and receiver: Bidirectional optical signal transmission between two identical devices using perovskite diodes April 3rd, 2020

A new way to fine-tune exotic materials: Thin, stretch and clamp: Turning a brittle oxide into a flexible membrane and stretching it on a tiny apparatus flipped it from a conducting to an insulating state and changed its magnetic properties April 2nd, 2020

Double-walled nanotubes have electro-optical advantages :Rice University calculations show they could be highly useful for solar panels March 27th, 2020

Electric jolt to carbon makes better water purifier March 24th, 2020

Research partnerships

A combined optical transmitter and receiver: Bidirectional optical signal transmission between two identical devices using perovskite diodes April 3rd, 2020

3D reconstructions of individual nanoparticles: Liquid phase electron microscopy illuminates 3D atomic structures of platinum nanoparticles, advancing full control of nanoengineering April 3rd, 2020

Carbon nanotubes forecast when vegetables spoil and buds bloom April 2nd, 2020

A pigment from ancient Egypt to modern microscopy: Göttingen research team produces new nanosheets for near infrared imaging March 23rd, 2020

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project