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Inorganic Biochemistry and NMR







The Inorganic Biochemistry and NMR group is devoted to the study of the molecular bases for the interaction of sediment organisms with solid substrates. These phenomena, which include the electron exchange with extracellular mineral phases, are at the core of the interest in these organisms for bioremediation of contaminated environments and sustainable energy production in microbial fuel cells.


Research Overview


The biological importance of metals can be appreciated by the fact that all known organisms use metals, either in trace quantities for cell biosynthesis or in bulk quantities for respiration or structure. Therefore, the bioavailability of metals is a major limiting factor for growth in settings that can range from biocorrosion of man made structures to host pathogen interactions controlling colonization ability and/or virulence.

Metal respiring organisms found in natural habitats have gained notoriety because of the novel approaches that they can provide for bioremediation of metal contaminated environments, biological electricity generation from sediment or waste water, and microbial based corrosion protection of sub-surface metallic structures. 

Genomics and mutagenic studies have already identified several of the proteins involved in these novel respiratory networks. Most are cytochromes but the structure and detailed functional mechanism of the large majority of these proteins is not known. This research group studies how these organisms couple reduction of exogenous solid electron acceptors to energy conservation. This is achieved by collecting structural and functional information on the proteins from Shewanella oneidensis MR-1Desulfuromonas acetoxidansGeobacter sulfurreducensDesulfovibrio vulgaris Hildenborough and Thermincola potens JR involved in the respiratory pathways of solid electron acceptors. NMR spectroscopy is the core technique used to obtain these data. Lack of detailed knowledge on the energy metabolism of these organisms has been identified as a fundamental barrier to the optimisation of applications in microbial fuel cell technology and bioremediation. Establishing of the organization of the respiratory networks and detailed function of the proteins involved will provide the intellectual foundations for the optimization of biotechnological applications of these organisms or their proteins.



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