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Increasing Plant Enzyme Efficiency May Hold Key To Global Warming

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phantom power Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Feb-01-06 03:36 PM
Original message
Increasing Plant Enzyme Efficiency May Hold Key To Global Warming
In light of recent results, that show simply increasing plant growth does not necessarily sequester more carbon, I'm not sure what to make about their claims regarding CO2 scrubbing effectiveness. But increasing the efficiency of plant metabolism could still be useful in agriculture.

During photosynthesis, plants, and some bacteria, convert sunlight and carbon dioxide into usable chemical energy. Scientists have long known that this process relies on the enzyme rubulose 1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase, also called RuBisCO. While RuBisCO is the most abundant enzyme in the world, it is also one of the least efficient. As Dr. Matsumura says, "All life pretty much depends on the function on this enzyme. It actually has had billions of years to improve, but remains about a thousand times slower than most other enzymes. Plants have to make tons of it just to stay alive."

(...)

For their own study, Dr. Matsumura and his colleagues decided to use a process called "directed evolution" which involved isolating and randomly mutating genes, and then inserting the mutated genes into bacteria (in this case Escherichia coli, or E. coli). They then screened the resulting mutant proteins for the fastest and most efficient enzymes. "We decided to do what nature does, but at a much faster pace." Dr. Matsumura says. "Essentially we're using evolution as a tool to engineer the protein."

Because E. coli does not normally participate in photosynthesis or carbon dioxide conversion, it does not usually carry the RuBisCO enzyme. In this study, Matsumura's team added the genes encoding RuBisCO and a helper enzyme to E. coli, enabling it to change carbon dioxide into consumable energy. The scientists withheld other nutrients from this genetically modified organism so that it would need RuBisCO and carbon dioxide to survive under these stringent conditions.

They then randomly mutated the RuBisCO gene, and added these mutant genes to the modified E. coli. The fastest growing strains carried mutated RuBisCO genes that produced a larger quantity of the enzyme, leading to faster assimilation of carbon dioxide gas. "These mutations caused a 500 percent increase in RuBisCO expression," Dr. Matsumura says. "We are excited because such large changes could potentially lead to faster plant growth. This results also suggests that the enzyme is evolving in our laboratory in the same way that it did in nature."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/0601310926...

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kenny blankenship Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Feb-01-06 03:40 PM
Response to Original message
1. So the answer to globalwarming is to let loose genetically modified plants
Edited on Wed Feb-01-06 03:46 PM by kenny blankenship
all over the world...

paging Dr. Frankenstein!
paging Dr. Frankenstein, you're needed in the Unforeseen Consequences Ward, stat.
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phantom power Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Feb-01-06 04:19 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. Hey, if we don't play god, who will?
More to the point, we already are playing god, and have been more or less since the discovery of coal. At any rate, we can wait another fifty years, and there probably won't be that much original biosphere to worry about. At that point, we can safely introduce engineered life forms to our heart's content.
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skids Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Feb-01-06 04:24 PM
Response to Original message
3. Mmmm. food-poisoning on steroids.

...just what the world needs.
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Dead_Parrot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Feb-01-06 04:24 PM
Response to Original message
4. This won't help, in itself:
Plants that absorb twice as much carbon in thier lives will release twice as much when they decompose. Unless you're going to bury them, that is...
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kenny blankenship Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Feb-01-06 04:27 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. but we can put them on rocketships when they die
Edited on Wed Feb-01-06 04:42 PM by kenny blankenship
and shoot them into outerspace!

(Of course that's just a stopgap--eventually we'll have to let loose genetically tailored bacteria to reduce the dead plant biomass without flooding the atmosphere with carbon dioxide or methane. And when we're close to choking on the bacteria, we'll have to let loose genetically modified viruses in order to neutralize the bacteria before they pop, releasing all the stored greenhouse gasses).
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phantom power Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Feb-01-06 04:35 PM
Response to Reply #4
6. It might be useful for accelerating carbon-neutral biofuel cycles.
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Dead_Parrot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Feb-01-06 04:49 PM
Response to Reply #6
9. Very true
Dropping a mod like this in into an algae good for fuel extraction would be a big help with the oil problem. I wonder if oil rights for the Salton sea are still availible? :evilgrin:
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JohnWxy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Feb-01-06 04:40 PM
Response to Original message
7. When I ws much younger I saw a movie called the BLOB.
It was this giant gob of goo (maybe an enzyme) which glommed onto people and disolved them! It was Steve McQueen's first 'big' movie. He didn't play the Blob.

BTW..interesting post.
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NNadir Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Feb-01-06 04:46 PM
Response to Original message
8. Hoo boy. This is going to get 'em going.
Human modified nucleic acids cannot be allowed because they're modified by humans.

Spontaneous modification of nucleic acids (aka molecular evolution) can be allowed because well, it is.
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