Harvard Medical School researchers have engineered a photosynthetic cyanobacterium to boost sugar production, as a first step towards potential commercial production of biofuels and other biotechnologically and industrially useful carbon compounds. As feedstock producers, cyanobacteria have advantages over plants, particularly land plants. They need little fertilizer. They don’t compete with food crops, because they can grow on marginal land. At commercial scale, the engineered cyanobacteria could potentially produce five times more sugar per acre than traditional crops, including sugarcane, says first author Daniel Ducat. The research is published in the April Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
Cyanobacteria were likely candidates for feedstock production because many freshwater species accumulate sucrose when subjected to salty environments, says Ducat, who is a postdoctoral researcher in Pamela Silver’s laboratory at the Harvard Medical School. They do this to mitigate osmotic pressure, which otherwise would dehydrate them, he explains. “We hypothesized that this natural defense mechanism could be employed as a method to continuously produce sugar.”
Tags: biofuel, CO2, sucrose, photosynthetic cyanobacterium
Source: Phys.org, 2012-04-17.