Proteins in soil bacteria could aid cellulosic ethanol production

By Erin Voegele | December 09, 2009
Report posted Dec. 29, 2009, at 9:04 a.m. CST

Researchers at Newcastle, U.K.-based Northumbria University are collaborating with Nonlinear Dynamics Ltd., a company that develops proteomics analysis software, on a project that may have important implications for the production of cellulosic biofuels. During the three-year project, researchers will apply traditional laboratory analysis techniques along with advanced data analysis software in proteomics, which is a branch of molecular biology that studies the full set of proteins encoded by a genome, to identify key proteins produced by a cell or organism.

According to information released by the university, Northumbria graduate student Andrew Porter will use traditional scientific laboratory culturing techniques to grow Cellvibrio japonicas bacteria, which is commonly found in soil. Working with research leader and Northumbria professor Gary Black, Porter will isolate and analyze the proteins found within the bacteria. His data will be further analyzed using Nonlinear Dynamics' Progenesis proteomics analysis software, which will allow Porter to produce objective, reliable results and determine how easily the results can be reproduced.

The research may have implications for cellulosic biofuels production because it will seek to determine how micro-organisms in the soil break down and release the sugars contained in lignocellulosic material. "We will be finding out which proteins a microorganism uses when it's trying to degrade plants," Black said. "We know microorganisms in the soil have to do this efficiently, or they will die, and we believe we can learn a great deal from nature to determine which proteins are the most efficient and effective in degradation. It is a painstaking process as we have to isolate the proteins and ensure it is not just a spurious event but something which is recurring."