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Bacteria as CO2 recycling powerhouse

02-25-2020 02:50 PM CET | Science & Education

Press release from: Biofaction KG

eForFuel-engineered microorganisms convert formic acid to gaseous propane and isobutene.

eForFuel-engineered microorganisms convert formic acid to gaseous propane and isobutene.

E. coli can live and feed on formate & methanol:

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute (Germany) have reached a significant breakthrough presented in their recent Nature Chemical Biology publication. Their research for EU project eForFuel has redesigned the model biotechnological bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli) to live and feed on methanol and formate: a possibility that serves as a stepping stone towards future endeavors aiming at recycling CO2 into various valuable carbon-based compounds.

Formate and methanol as a first step to recycle CO2:

Excessive CO2 is responsible for global climate change, but it also has the potential to replace fossil fuel- based materials and chemicals such as fuels, plastics.
In nature, CO2 is fixed via plants and photosynthesis, but in times of climate change this might not be enough. What other methods are available to convert CO2 into useful products? Researchers from the eForFuel project have found a new way: first electrochemistry powered by renewable electricity activates CO2 into useful C1 molecules and building blocks, such as formate and methanol; then bioengineers convert the resultant C1 molecules into a useful product. Formate can be produced directly via the electrolysis of CO2, and methanol by reacting CO2 with hydrogen. Both processes have energetic efficiencies that are promising for further research.

Engineering an organism to live on formate and methanol:

The engineered microorganism that can live and feed on either formate and methanol, transforms these C1 molecules into carbon-based compounds that we usually derive from fossil fuels. The researchers at MPI were faced not just with the challenge of engineering an organism to grow on these two substances, but engineering it so that it could grow in aerobic conditions - i.e. an environment in which oxygen exists. This is a requirement to enable easier and more flexible cultivation and production. Their approach proved fruitful: "We have demonstrated an important step in the eForFuel project that could have wide- reaching implications for bioproduction processes that serve to recycle CO2 into valuable materials," says project coordinator Arren Bar-Even from MPI.

Kim, S., Lindner, S. N., Aslan, S., Yishai, O., Wenk, S., Schann, K., & Bar-Even, A. (2020). Growth of E. coli on formate and methanol via the reductive glycine pathway. Nat Chem Biol. doi:10.1038/s41589-020-0473-5.
For more information contact: Dr. Arren Bar-Even (MPI)
email: -- phone: +49-(0)331-5678910

eForFuel, which was launched in March 2018 in Berlin, is a 4-year project funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme under grant agreement No.763911

Kundmanngasse 39/12
1030 Vienna

Presscontact: Dr. Markus Schmidt,

Biofaction is a communication partner for eForFuel, a 4-year project funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme under grant agreement No.763911.

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