GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A bacteria plucked from the bottom of the ocean could be put to work neutralizing large amounts of industrial carbon dioxide, a group of UF Health researchers has found.
Carbon dioxide, a major contributor to the buildup of atmospheric greenhouse gases, can be captured and neutralized in a process known as sequestration. But converting the carbon dioxide into a harmless compound requires a durable, heat tolerant enzyme. That’s where the bacteria studied by UF Health researchers come into play. The bacteria — Thiomicrospira crunogena — produce carbonic anhydrase, an enzyme that helps break down carbon dioxide in organisms.
So what makes the deep-sea bacteria so attractive? It lives in hydrothermal vents, so the enzyme it produces is accustomed to high temperatures. That’s exactly what’s needed for the enzyme to work during the process of reducing industrial carbon dioxide, said Robert McKenna, Ph.D., a professor of biochemistry and microbiology in the UF College of Medicine.
“This little critter has evolved to deal with those problems. It has already adapted to some of the conditions it would face in an industrial setting,” he said.
The findings by the McKenna’s group, which included graduate research assistant Brian Mahon and graduate student Avni Bhatt, were published recently in the journal Biological Crystallography.
The chemistry of sequestering works this way: The enzyme, carbonic anhydrase, catalyzes a chemical reaction of carbon dioxide and water. The carbon dioxide interacts with the enzyme, converting the greenhouse gas into bicarbonate. The bicarbonate can then be further processed into products such as baking soda and chalk.
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