Researchers at the University of Liverpool have probed the structure and material properties of protein mechanisms in bacteria, which have the ability to change carbon dioxide into sugar through photosynthesis. Details of this research have been published in the journal Nanoscale.
Cyanobacteria are a phylum of bacteria that yield energy and oxygen during photosynthesis, akin to green plants. They are among the most plentiful organisms in fresh water and oceans. Unique internal ‘machines’ in cyanobacteria, known as carboxysomes allow the organisms to transform carbon dioxide to sugar and provide impacts on universal biomass production and the environment.
Carboxysomes are nanoscale polyhedral structures that are made up of different types of enzymes and proteins. So far, little is known about these ‘machines’ that are constructed and maintain their organization to perform carbon fixation activity.
Structure in nature
A team of Researchers from the University’s Institute of Integrative Biology, led by Royal Society University Research Fellow Dr Luning Liu, examined in depth the native structure and mechanical stiffness of carboxysomes using advanced microscopes and biochemical techniques.
For the first time, the Researchers were successful in biochemically purifying active carboxysomes from cyanobacteria and characterizing their carbon fixation activity and protein composition. They then used atomic force microscopy and electron microscopy to visualize the morphology and internal protein organization of these bacterial machines.