Assistant Professor, School of Biotechnology, Amrita University
Development of a Phototrophic Microbial Fuel Cell with sacrificial electrodes and a novel proton exchange matrix
If micro organisms can solve Sudoku and possibly have feelings, who is to say that they cannot also solve the planet’s energy crisis? Mr. Madhavan employs micro organisms to produce energy using microbial fuel cell (MFC). Micro organisms go through a series of cycles and pathways in order to survive, including the Electron Transport Pathway (ETP) in which bacteria release electrons which can be tapped as energy. In a two-chambered MFC, micro organisms interact with an anode in one chamber and in the presence of an oxidizing agent in the cathodic chamber scavenges electrons from the cathode. The two chambers are connected by an external circuit and connected to a load. In between the two chambers is a proton exchange membrane (PEM) which transports protons from the second chamber to the first and acts as a barrier for electrons. Therefore, a renewable source of energy can be maintained by just providing your bacterial culture with the proper nutrients to thrive and remain happy and satisfied (assuming they have emotions).
Mr. Madhavan has done extensive work on such MFCs and has experimented with various micro organisms and substrates to achieve high energy production. The phototropic MFC Mr. Madhavan designed using Synechococcus elongates using waste water as a substrate was able to generate approximately 10 mȦ and 1 volt of electricity. Other research in this area has even shown that using human urine can be used as a substrate for certain bacteria to produce enough energy to charge a mobile phone.
Although this microbial technology seems to be the “next big thing” (despite their small size) when it comes to renewable energy sources there is still a lot of work to be done before these bacteria batteries hit the market. As of now the MFCs are still much less efficient than solar cells and the search for the perfect bacteria and substrate continues.
V. Nagaraja Ph.D.
Professor, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, India
Perturbation of DNA topology in mycobacteria
To maintain the topological homeostasis of the genome in the cell, DNA topoisomerases catalyse DNA cleavage, strand passage and rejoining of the ends. Thus, although they are essential house- keeping enzymes, they are the most vulnerable targets; arrest of the reaction after the first trans-esterification step leads to breaks in DNA and cell death. Some of the successful antibacterial or anticancer drugs target the step ie arrest the reaction or stabilize the topo -DNA covalent complex. I will describe our efforts in this direction – to target DNA gyrase and also topoisomerase1 from mycobacteria. The latter, although essential, has no inhibitors described so far. The new inhibitors being characterized are also used to probe topoisomerase control of gene expression.
In the biological warfare between the organisms, a diverse set of molecules encoded by invading genomes target the above mentioned most vulnerable step of topoisomerase reaction, leading to the accumulation of double strand breaks. Bacteria, on their part appear to have developed defense strategies to protect the cells from genomic double strand breaks. I will describe a mechanism involving three distinct gyrase interacting proteins which inhibit the enzyme in vitro. However, in vivo all these topology modulators protect DNA gyrase from poisoning effect by sequestering the enzyme away from DNA.
Next, we have targeted a topology modulator protein, a nucleoid associated protein(NAP) from Mycobacterium tuberculosis to develop small molecule inhibitors by structure based design. Over expression of HU leads to alteration in the nucleoid architecture. The crystal structure of the N-terminal half of HU reveals a cleft that accommodates duplex DNA. Based on the structural feature, we have designed inhibitors which bind to the protein and affect its interaction with DNA, de-compact the nucleoid and inhibit cell growth. Chemical probing with the inhibitors reveal the importance of HU regulon in M.tuberculosis.
Sukhithasri V, Nisha N, Vivek V and Raja Biswas
The host innate immune system acts as the first line of defense against invading pathogens. During an infection, the host innate immune cells recognize unique conserved molecules on the pathogen known as Pathogen Associated Molecular Patterns (PAMPs). This recognition of PAMPs helps the host mount an innate immune response leading to the production of cytokines (Akira et al. 2006). Peptidoglycan, one of the most conserved and essential component of the bacterial cell wall is one such PAMP. Peptidoglycan is known to have potent proinflammatory properties (Gust et al. 2007). Host recognize peptidoglycan using Nucleotide oligomerization domain proteins (NODs). This recognition of peptidoglycan activates the NODs and triggers downstream signaling leading to the nuclear translocation of NF-ÎºB and production of cytokines (McDonald et al. 2005). Pathogenic bacteria modify their peptidoglycan as a strategy to evade innate immune recognition, which helps it to establish infection in the host. These peptidoglycan modifications include O-acetylation and N-glycolylation of muramic acid and N-deacetylation of N-acetylglucosamine (Davis et al. 2011). Modification of mycobacterial peptidoglycan by N-glycolylation prevents the catalytic activity of lysozyme (Raymond et al. 2005). Additionally, mycobacterial peptidoglycan is modified by amidation for unknown reasons.
Here, we have investigated the role of amidated peptidoglycan in Mycobacterium sp in modulating the innate immune response. We isolated amidated peptidoglycan from Mycobacterium sp and non-amidated peptidoglycan from Escherichia coli. We made a comparative analysis of the cytokine response produced on stimulation of innate immune cells by peptidoglycan from E. Coli and Mycobacterium sp. Macrophages and whole blood were treated with peptidoglycan and the cytokines secreted into spent medium and plasma respectively were analyzed using ELISA. Our results show that peptidoglycan from Mycobacterium sp is less effective in stimulating innate immune cells to produce cytokines. This intrinsic modulation of the cytokine response suggests that mycobacteria modify their peptidoglycan by amidation to evade innate immune response.