Nanotechnology reveals hidden depths of bacterial ‘machines’

New research from the University of Liverpool, published in the journal Nanoscale, has probed the structure and material properties of protein machines in bacteria, which have the capacity to convert carbon dioxide into sugar through photosynthesis.

Cyanobacteria are a phylum of bacteria that produce oxygen and energy during photosynthesis, similar to green plants. They are among the most abundant organisms in oceans and fresh water. Unique internal ‘machines’ in cyanobacteria, called carboxysomes, allow the organisms to convert carbon dioxide to sugar and provide impacts on global biomass production and our environment.
Carboxysomes are nanoscale polyhedral structures that are made of several types of proteins and enzymes. So far, little is known about how these ‘machines’ are constructed and maintain their organisation to perform carbon fixation activity.

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 approaches.

For the first time, the researchers were able to biochemically purify active carboxysomes from cyanobacteria and characterize their carbon fixation activity and protein composition. They then used electron microscopy and atomic force microscopy to visualise the morphology and internal protein organization of these bacterial machines.

 

Read more at phys.org
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Image Credit:  Dr Luning Liu, University of Liverpool

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2018-03-22T14:35:01+00:00

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