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Korea Institute of Ocean Science & Technology

First-ever discovery of new bioenergy production mechanism of deep-sea microorganisms

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  • Date : 2014-07-23

KIOST?Goethe Universitat joint research team raises expectations for increased biohydrogen productivity



The Republic of Korea Institute of Ocean Science & Technology (KIOST) announced that the joint research team of Dr. Sung Gyun Kang, Dr. Jae Kyu Lim, and Professor Volker Muller of Goethe Universitat-Frankfurt am Main is the first in the world to discover the unique bioenergy production mechanism of the archaebacteria Thermococcus onnurineus NA1,* which lives in high-temperature deep-sea vents. This bioenergy is generated through the hydrogen-production process of NA1. 

*Thermococcus onnurineus NA1: a type of archaebacteria that inhabits high-temperature areas of between 63 to 90℃

 

NA1, which was collected by a KIOST team in 2002 while researching deep-sea vents in the South Pacific, is a biological resource that is able to produce biohydrogen, which has recently received significant attention as a next-generation source of “clean energy”. KIOST researchers first discovered the biohydrogen production mechanism in 2010 with the fromate* of NA1 and published an article entitled “Formate-driven growth coupled with H2 production” in Nature.

* fromate: The simplest form of carboxylic acid, it is one of the final results of microorganism carbohydrate metabolism. The name is derived from the fact that it is created by distilling formica.

 

The results are the outcome of follow-up research to the article published in 2010. The research team utilized experimentation techniques from biochemistry and molecular biology to prove that the difference in sodium ion concentration created in the hydrogen-production process of NA1 is converted into adenosine triphosphate (ATP).*1

 

Dr. Sung Gyun Kang (KIOST) stated, “In general, life forms use the chemiosmosis created by concentration differences in hydrogen ions inside and outside of the cell membrane. At this time, for certain microorganisms and archaebacteria, it is the difference in sodium ion concentration rather than chemiosmosis that plays a more important role in ATP production.” Kang also explained, “By proving for the first time in the world the process that occurs as a result of sodium ion concentration differences and ATP production when NA1 produces hydrogen, our research has revealed a new ATP production paradigm that utilizes hydrogen ions and sodium ion concentration differences.”

 

The results of this most recent research are particularly significant in that all research activities related to the biohydrogen and energy production mechanisms of archaebacteria were led by Korean researchers.

 

The research has also created the foundation for a broader understanding of the biological phenomena of life forms that live in extreme environments, and will contribute significantly to our understanding of the unique energy production mechanisms used by deep-sea microorganisms to adapt to extreme environments, such as high-temperature deep-sea vents.

 

The research team plans to apply their results to research on biohydrogen production in deep-sea microorganisms so that it can be utilized to increase the production of hydrogen and develop superior bacterial strains.

 

This research is part of an ongoing project for the development of hypothermophilic archaebacteria biohydrogen production technology*3, which is currently being conducted with funding received by KIOST from the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries. The results were published in the July 22 (Korean Standard Time) online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)*.

*PNAS

 : A weekly journal published by the National Academy of Sciences (US). Founded in 1914, PNAS is a highly prestigious journal with globally-recognized authority in the biological, physical, and social sciences.

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Last Update : 2020-03-07