A study shows that microbes can use methane to produce fuel


A recent report highlighting the article published in Science shows that methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, and its quantities in the atmosphere have been continuously rising. Methanotrophic bacteria eat methane and have the ability to convert methane to fuel. Scientists have discovered a key enzyme in this process called particulate methane monooxygenase (pMMO), which might enable us harness methanotrophic bacteria to use the methane gas we already have to generate methanol.

Because the pMMO enzyme is located in the bacterial cell membrane, it is difficult to examine. The membrane must usually be torn apart with powerful detergents in order for those proteins to be extracted and analysed. However, this treatment destroys the molecule’s enzymatic capabilities, limiting what may be learned from it.

Read: We’re getting closer to understanding how gut microbes cause obesity

The researchers used a novel strategy in this study. Instead of isolating the enzyme, scientists embedded it in a nanodisc, a membrane-like particle comprised of bacterial lipids.

According to first study author and graduate student Christopher Koo, the nanodisc mirrored the natural environment, allowing the researchers to restore enzyme function. The researchers employed cryo-electron microscopy to see the enzyme in operation at atomic scale.  Researchers uncovered the whole configuration of the copper site in the enzyme where methane oxidation is anticipated to occur as a result of this. The results of this work “completely changed the way we were thinking about the active site of this enzyme.

Researchers may be able to use the enzyme in biomanufacturing, to clean oil contamination, or to gather methane that is presently released from fracking sites with more information.

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