APPLICATIONS OF TECHNOLOGY:
- Carbon dioxide sequestration
- Encapsulation of oxygen-sensitive reactions (e.g., nitrogen fixation)
- Biomass production
- Biofuel production
- Protein purification
- Chemical and pharmaceutical production
- Increases efficiency of enzymatic pathways
- Enables new combinations and scaffolding of enzymes
- Compatible with biological and non-biological systems
- Protects proteins from degradation, reduces protein turn-over
Cheryl Kerfeld and Dominique Loque at Berkeley Lab have developed a technology that can be used to introduce new or enhanced metabolic pathways to bacteria, yeast, algae, and plant and animal cells for the purpose of providing additional functions for biofuel production, CO2 sequestration, fixation, etc. The technology involves colocalizing metabolic enzymes within microcompartments in prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells and in cell-free non-living systems such as vesicles.
Microcompartments occur naturally in certain bacteria, where they function as organelles concentrating enzymes and substrates. The Berkeley Lab scientists identified a catalog of nucleic acid cassette sequences that can be inserted into a cell and induced to express proteins that assemble into microcompartments and the enzymes contained within them. The microcompartments can also function as scaffolds to colocalize sequential enzymes in a reaction cascade to enhance its efficiency.
Research efforts in this field have been devoted to increasing catalytic efficiency to better catabolize or produce substances in various scientific fields. However, other attempts to structurally alter enzymes for efficiency have met with limited success. The Berkeley Lab nucleic acid catalog uses a different strategy by creating and optimizing a microenvironment for catalysis and protein stability.
Schematics of microcompartments, showing the encapsulated enzymes (green; top middle), the proteins that form the shell structure (left), and the entire compartment with a side removed to show the interior (right).
STATUS: Patent pending. Available for licensing or collaborative research.
DEVELOPMENT STATUS: Modeled concept.
REFERENCE NUMBER: IB-2626
SEE THESE OTHER BERKELEY LAB TECHNOLOGIES IN THIS FIELD:
- Novel Biosynthetic Pathway for Production of Fatty Acid Derived Molecules, IB-2386, IB-2387
- Engineered Biosynthesis of Alternative Biodiesel Fuel in E. Coli and Yeast, EIB-2391
- Irreversible, Low Load Genetic Switches, EJIB-2593