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Q: What do British Petroleum and M. vanbaalenii have in common?

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A: Both BP and M. vanbaalenii make a living from oil.
The oil spill in the gulf is going to need the skills of a few good microbes, and Mycobacterium vanbaalenii might be a perfect candidate for the job. It was originally isolated from oil-contaminated estuary sediment in Texas, after all, and it has a set of enzymes that make short work of polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). In a study in the current issue of mBio, researchers explore which specific PAHs these enzymes prefer and how they go about oxidizing these compounds to start them on their way to degradation. What they learned may help in the development of PAH bioremediation technologies.
 
 

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