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Down with cooperation! Better to make methanogens do all the work

Mutually-beneficial cooperation is a high ideal, but for bacteria and archaea, working together isn’t always a good solution. Now a team at Pennsylvania State University has worked out a system that could work better than inter-domain cooperation: by putting genes from a bacterium into an archaeon, they got the archaeon to do all the work on its own. The study appears in the latest issue of mBio.

To transform organic materials to methane usually calls for the skills of a consortium of bacteria and archaea, but these multi-species food chains are fragile and require painstaking care and feeding. To get around these problems and make a useful product, Lessner et al. placed MekB, a broad- specificity esterase gene from the bacterium Pseudomonas veronii, on a plasmid and put the plasmid in the archaeon Methanosarcina acetivorans. They then fused the gene to a constitutive M. acetivorans promoter. The “Franken-archaeon” put its new gene to good use: it completely converted an industrial solvent and a naturally occurring compound to methane and carbon dioxide. (I wonder if the lab was filled with hysterical cries of “It’s alive!!!” that day?)
Click on the link above to read more on mBio's blog, mBiosphere...

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