Optimizing Algae Biofuels: Applied Natural Selection to Improve Lipid Synthesis. IntroductionMicroalgae hold great potential as a renewable source of oil for biofuel production, but there are many inherent difficulties involved in making their use commercially viable (Singh and Gu, 2010). Algae offer numerous advantages over other, more conventional oil sources: they can grow more rapidly and densely than land crops, they can be cultivated on non-arable land, and they have high rates of atmospheric carbon dioxide sequestration( Hu et al, 2008).
However, algae oil yields must increase to give algae biofuels the economic feasibility necessary to impact our current dependence on fossil fuels (Raehtz, 2009). Studies show that nitrate deprivation can decrease growth rates and increase lipid accumulation in algae by changing lipid metabolism (Wang et al, 2009). My previous work confirmed that environmental stress can inhibit growth while increasing lipid productivity. Figure 2: Artificial selection scheme for the isolation of cell lines with increased lipid productivity. Engineers develop new yeast strain to enhance biofuel and biochemical production -- ScienceDaily. Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin have used a combination of metabolic engineering and directed evolution to develop a new, mutant yeast strain that could lead to a more efficient biofuel production process that would make biofuels more economically competitive with conventional fuels.
Their findings were published online in the journal Metabolic Engineering in March. Beyond biofuels, the new yeast strain could be used in biochemical production to produce oleochemicals, chemicals traditionally derived from plant and animal fats and petroleum, which are used to make a variety of household products. Hal Alper, associate professor in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering, and his team have engineered a special type of yeast cell, Yarrowia lipolytica, and significantly enhanced its ability to convert simple sugars into oils and fats, known as lipids, that can then be used in place of petroleum-derived products. NESCent: Education & Outreach: Postcasts. Evolution in the News Evolution may seem like something that happened a long time ago, and as such it can be difficult for students to see the relevance to their own lives.
To make evolution current for students, we have developed this collection of stories about recent breakthroughs in evolutionary biology research and its applications in society. NESCent and Understanding Evolution collaborate to develop monthly Evolution in the News text stories and podcasts. The stories, along with links to background literature and classroom resources are available on the Understanding Evolution site, and the podcasts are available here. NESCent also has a collection of Evolution in the News stories, both text and podcast, generated prior to our collaboration with Understanding Evolution which can be found here: Archived Evolution in the News.
These podcasts may be downloaded from iTunes U for free, or viewed on YouTube. Evolution in the News stories from Understanding Evolution and NESCent. Search the teaching materials database. Better biofuels through evolution. Resource library : Evo in the news : Better biofuels through evolutionApril 2009 Where's the evolution? Part of the problem with the biofuels currently produced in the US is that they are mainly made from corn — a greedy crop that sucks nutrients from the soil and needs lots of fertilizers (which are often themselves derived from fossil fuels!).
Even worse, since corn is also a food crop, using it to produce biofuel drives up the cost of this dietary staple. Furthermore, a tiny fraction of the plant, the kernels, can be used to make fuel. Biofuel production would be much more efficient if it used whole plants and if it could rely on less greedy plants that are not also used as food. Such a fuel might be a viable alternative to gasoline. Evolution in the wild involves the survival and reproduction of organisms with traits particularly well-suited to their environments. Begin with a gene that does something close to the job you have in mind. Read more about it Primary literature: Arnold, F. Want a new drug? Look to evolution. Resource library : Evo in the news : Want a new drug? Look to evolutionFebruary, 2015 Thin wafers containing antibiotic have been placed on an agar plate growing bacteria. Last month, news outlets around the world heralded what could be a major medical breakthrough. In the midst of a public health battle against antibiotic resistant germs — which have been popping up with alarming frequency, not just in hospitals but in sick household pets and in meat from the supermarket — researchers announced the discovery of a powerful new antibiotic.
Teixobactin easily cured mice of pneumonia and MRSA (an antibiotic resistant staph infection), and is likely to be effective against other deadly diseases such as anthrax. Where's the evolution? Most of the antibiotics in use today are produced by microorganisms like bacteria. The discovery of antibiotics in 1929 and their subsequent mass production ushered in a new era in medicine. Read more about it Primary literature: Davies, J., and Davies, D. (2010). Tracking SARS back to its source. Resource library : Evo in the news : Tracking SARS back to its sourceJanuary 2006, updated July 2013 The previously unknown SARS virus generated widespread panic in 2002 and 2003 when the airborne germ caused 774 deaths and more than 8000 cases of illness.
But where did this mystery virus come from? Scientists immediately suspected that it had jumped to humans from some other organism. In May of 2003, attention focused in on cat-like mammals called civets. Infected civets were discovered at a live animal market in southern China (where they are occasionally eaten). Where's the evolution? Viruses evolve rapidly and constantly, changing within a lineage and splitting off to form new lineages.
In this case, biologists collected samples of the SARS virus's genetic material, RNA, from different sources: infected humans, infected civets, and different species of infected horseshoe bat. Interestingly, viruses seem to frequently make the jump from bats to human hosts. Read more about it. Evolution and the avian flu. Ebola and evolution. Resource library : Evo in the news : Ebola and evolutionOctober 2014 The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has international medical organizations on high alert and people all around the world antsy — even those who live in the Americas and Australia, oceans away from the disease's epicenter. The disease is normally carried by animals like fruit bats, but occasionally makes the jump to humans, and when it does, it is deadly, killing more than half of those infected.
However, because it is only spread by direct contact with bodily fluids, most of the world need not fear for their lives. In recent months, some media outlets, and even a scientist or two, have begun to wonder aloud whether the Ebola virus could "mutate" and become airborne — but of course, what is actually meant is whether the virus can evolve in ways that allow it to be passed along more easily, just as the flu can be spread by a sneeze.
Where's the evolution? So should we be worried about Ebola's evolution at all? Carroll, S. Genetic engineering vs. evolution. Resource library : Evo in the news : Genetic engineering vs. evolutionApril 2014 The western corn rootworm chews into a plant. In the late 1990s, a new weapon in the fight against agricultural pests was introduced: Bt corn. The new maize variety was genetically engineered to carry genes from the bacterium Bacillus thurinigiensis (hence the moniker "Bt") that cause the crop to produce an all-natural pesticide. Where's the evolution? The evolution of resistance by natural selection is a common problem with any pesticide — whether sprayed on or produced by the plant itself. However, when Bt corn was introduced to the market, it came with a planting strategy designed to significantly slow the evolution of resistance to Bt.
The plan was a good one — but there were two problems. Such lapses seem to have resulted in the rapid evolution of pesticide resistance in the western corn rootworm. So what's the solution? Read more about it Primary literature: Gassmann, A. News articles: References. Antibiotic resistant bacteria at the meat counter. Resource library : Evo in the news : Antibiotic resistant bacteria at the meat counterMay 2013, updated June 2014 The pork chops you buy in the supermarket neatly packaged in plastic and styrofoam may look completely sterile, but are, in fact, likely to be contaminated with disease-causing bacteria — and not with just any old bugs, but with hard-to-treat, antibiotic resistant strains.
In a recently published study, researchers with the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System bought meat from a wide sampling of chain grocery stores across the country and analyzed the bacteria on the meat. Resistant microbes were found in 81% of ground turkey samples, 69% of pork chops, 55% of ground beef samples, and 39% of chicken parts. Where's the evolution? This process seems to be inevitable. In horizontal transfer, organisms share genetic material with one another directly, as opposed to passing genetic material only to their offspring. Read more about it Primary literature: News articles: The recent roots of dental disease. Influenza, an ever-evolving target for vaccine development. Resource library : Evo in the news : Influenza, an ever-evolving target for vaccine developmentFebruary 2013 It's that time of year again.
Coughing coworkers, student absences, and reminders to get your shot are sure signs that flu season is upon us. This year's epidemic seems to have struck earlier and harder than usual — all amid concerns over shortages of the flu vaccine. While some vaccines provide lifelong protection with one or a few doses (e.g., measles, mumps, and polio), the flu requires a new shot every year. Where's the evolution? In fact, in a process called antigenic drift, flu evolves in response to the antibodies our bodies produce each year. Each year's flu vaccine is actually a cocktail of vaccines for a few different flu strains (generally three) that World Health Organization scientists predict will spread during that year's flu season.
Different traits evolve at different rates. The days of a yearly flu shot may be numbered. Read more about it Primary literature: Climate change causes loss of genetic diversity. Resource library : Evo in the news : Climate change causes loss of genetic diversityApril 2012 Where's the evolution? Genetic variation refers to the idea that different individuals in a population are likely to carry different genetic sequences for corresponding regions of the genome.
For example, in humans, one individual may carry genetic sequences that code for type A blood, and someone else may carry sequences that code for type O blood. In the case of the chipmunks, scientists were able to study DNA from museum specimens collected in the early 1900s and compare those to samples from chipmunks collected in the last 10 years. Climate change is the obvious culprit. What does reduced genetic variation mean for the future of the alpine chipmunk? All three of these factors have the potential to increase extinction risk for the chipmunks. Of course, at the moment, the chipmunks seem to be doing fine and are not listed as a threatened species. Read more about it Primary literature: References. "An antibiotic that exploits evolutionary history" Resource library : Evo in the news : An antibiotic that exploits evolutionary historyOctober 2011 Where's the evolution?
Around 1.8 billion years ago, a major divergence occurred among the single-celled organisms that then made up life on Earth. An early bacterium — one which could use oxygen to release energy from sugars — was engulfed by another bacterium. Through the process of endosymbiosis, this lineage eventually evolved into the eukaryotes (the diverse group which includes animals and plants) and the engulfed bacterium evolved into a cellular organelle (the mitochondrion, the powerhouse of the cell), while the relatives of the engulfed bacterium remained single-celled and evolved into modern bacteria.
As these two lineages — the eukaryotes and the bacteria — proceeded along their independent evolutionary paths, each acquired mutations that affected their cellular machinery. Aminoglycosides attach to the part of the bacterial ribosome that decodes messages from the DNA. Lynch, S. "When fighting leukemia, evolutionary history matters" Resource library : Evo in the news : When fighting leukemia, evolutionary history mattersDecember 2011 Where's the evolution?
To understand how evolution factors into such transplants, you first need to know a bit about the genes that determine the success of these procedures. One of the jobs of bone marrow and blood stem cells is to produce the cells of the immune system, which are responsible for recognizing the difference between invading pathogens and the cells of your own body. These HLA genes are all located close together on Chromosome 6. Finding a match can be a challenge because hundreds of versions of each of the key HLA genes exist and a donor needs to carry just the right combination. HLA genes are key players in the evolutionary arms race between humans and pathogens. What are the odds of finding a match in the registry? These observations also make sense when viewed in the light of human evolution. Read more about it Primary literature: News articles: References. The relevance of evolution. Evolution's Importance to Society. July 2005 Biology is the study of the many varieties of life.
Source: Wikimedia Commons. This century is often called the age or the century of biology. Why? Genetics and molecular biology revolutionized the study of evolution. Pigliucci: Largely, I suspect, because of discoveries in genetics and molecular biology, even though it is true that biology throughout the early 21st century has been an exploding science in a variety of areas, ecology and evolutionary biology, for example.
How can evolution play a role in both the conservation and management of the environment? Conservation biologists are interested in evolutionary problems. Pigliucci: Evolutionary biology is important in conservation because conservation is a particular example of the general problem evolutionary biologists are interested in—dealing with how species expand or contract the environment they occupy. Biogeography is relevant to conservation biology. What about evolution’s role in agriculture? Let me give you an example. From the origin of life to the future of biotech: The work of Andy Ellington.
With his secure defense research facility, robotics lab, and fleet of researchers, University of Texas professor Dr. Andy Ellington might appear to be a CIA scientist building the latest intelligence gadgets for modern day 007s. In fact, Andy Ellington studies evolution. A self-described evolutionary engineer, he uses evolutionary principles to evolve molecules and organisms that serve all sorts of functions: from warning us of a chemical weapons attack to fighting HIV to detecting cancer. Said Ellington, "I don't make the molecule; I don't make the organism — I make them better. " Surprisingly, Andy's first research focus was not biotechnology, but the origin of life.
Another perspective on cancer: Evolution within. Why%20is%20it%20important%20to%20teach%20evolution.pdf. Understanding evolution is important. Evolution's Importance to Society.