Figuring out Cyanobacteria

March 6, 2010 | 16:18
Figuring out Cyanobacteria
Figuring out Cyanobacteria
One of the big ballers in nature's carbon cycle are the tiny ocean-dwelling Cyanobacterias, responsible for up to 40% of the total carbon-recycling. Just like plants, these single-celled bacteria photosynthesize, turning carbon into (their) fuel. Pamela Silver of Harvard Medical School has discovered more details on how these single-celled creatures process carbon.

The Cyanobacteria create so-called carboxysomes for Carbon processing (the green circles in the picture). These carboxysomes are basically tiny 'factories' that take in CO2 and turn it into sugar for the bacteria to live on. Silver and collegues discovered how these carboxysomes get organized inside the bacteria. As you can see in the picture, the carboxysomes are distributed within the bacteria in a very neat and structured manner: being roughly spaced apart equally, and only fitting in as much as the bacteria can hold.

But science wouldn't be science if there would be no tinkering. There was! The scientists disabled the protein responsible for this neat organization of carboxysomes, which resulted in Cyanobacteria with randomly distributed CO2-processing-factories. They'd have either too much or not enough carboxysomes for proper carbon digestion. These genetically handicapped bacteria turned out to be far less efficient in processing carbon!

It might seem like a tiny discovery, but understanding how these organisms work is essential in working towards a practical application of this knowledge. Who knows, in 10 years time we might have Cyanobacterias attached to our car-exhausts, munching our CO2!
Read more at EurekAlert
Loading comments...
related items