Tuesday, October 28, 2014

28/10/2014: Microbes could be used to detox marine pollutants

A new study has shown how special cellular chemistry allows microbes to strip pollutants of halogen atoms. The finding could be useful for tackling marine toxins, reports the Digital Journal.

Several types of bacteria found free-living in deep-sea sediments can produce enzymes that can dehalogenate long-lived environmental toxins such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins.
A view of the active site of a reductive dehalogenase from N. pacificus, shown docked with a 3,5-dibromo-4-hydroxybenzoic acid substrate.
Credit: Nature

This way to detoxify pollutants is often useful, and it could potentially be made useful if scientists can harness this microbe-power. The first step is to understand exactly how some types of bacteria can reduce the harmfulness of certain pollutants.

The work is important because dioxins are dangerous industrial byproducts. They were once used as coolants in the manufacture of electrical equipment. Although the production of such chemicals was banned globally in 2001, they can remain in the environment, particularly in water.

An advancement has been made this month. Scientists, from the University of Manchester in the UK, have succeeded in purifying an enzyme in a strain of bacteria, called a dehalogenase, and have examined the enzyme's structure and activity. The bacterium studied was Nitratireductor pacificus.

Read more HERE.

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