by Staff Writers
Pullman WA (SPX) Jan 10, 2017
Researchers at Washington State University have discovered a new type of cooperative photosynthesis that could be used in engineering microbial communities for waste treatment and bioenergy production. They report this week on the unique metabolic process seen for the first time in a pair of bacteria in Nature Communications. Photosynthetic bacteria account for nearly half of the world's food production and carbon-based organic material. The research could also improve understanding of lake ecology.
Prosthecochloris aestaurii , a green-tinged, plant-like microbe, comes from the extreme environment of Hot Lake, a high salinity lake in northern Okanogan County near Oroville, Wash. Discovered and identified a few years ago by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Southern Illinois University, the bacterium is able to photosynthesize, using sunlight along with elemental sulfur or hydrogen sulfide to grow.
The researchers noticed that P. aestuarii tended to gather around a carbon electrode, an electricity conductor that they were operating in Hot Lake. The researchers isolated and grew P. aestuarii and determined that, similar to the way half of a battery works, the bacterium is able to grab electrons from a solid electrode and use them for photosynthesis.
The pink-colored Geobacter sulfurreducens meanwhile, is known for its ability to convert waste organic matter to electricity in microbial fuel cells. The bacterium is also used in environmental cleanup.
G. sulfurreducens, like animals and humans, can't photosynthesize. It consumes organic compounds, such as acetate, and "breathes" out carbon dioxide.
The bacterium is known for its ability to donate electrons to a solid electrode. As it consumes acetate, it generates electrons, which can be collected as electricity.
Microbes paired up in WSU lab
The researchers found that P. aestuarii could accept electrons generated from G. sulfurreducens and use them in a new type of anaerobic photosynthesis never before seen. Similar to how a battery or fuel cell works, the bacteria transfer electrons. They feed off each other to grow under conditions in which neither could grow independently.
"We think this could be a common bio-electrochemical process in nature," said Beyenal, whose team is working to better understand the electron transfer mechanism.
Washington State University
Bio Fuel Technology and Application News
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement|