The function of acid photodecarboxylase for the production of biofuels and green chemistry has been decrypted. An international team of scientists presented the findings, including many French researchers from CEA, CNRS, Inserm, Ecole Polytechnique, the University of Grenoble-Alpes, the University of Paris-Saxre, and the University of Aix-Marseille, as well as the European Synchrotron (ESRF) and synchrotron SOLEIL. The study was published April 9, 2021, in the journal Science.
The researchers declassified the workings of acid photodecarboxylase (FAP), which is naturally found in microalgae such as Chlorella. The enzyme was shown in 2017 to use light to form hydrocarbons from fatty acids produced by these microalgae. To achieve this new result, the team used a complete set of experimental and theoretical tools.
Understanding how FAP works is critical because this holoenzyme opens up new opportunities for sustainable biofuel production using fatty acids naturally produced by organisms. FAP is also promising in the production of high value-added compounds for fine chemicals, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals.
Besides, due to the fatigued reaction, this holoenzyme can obtain ultra-fast phenomena that occur during the enzymatic reaction. Therefore, FAP provides a unique opportunity to learn more about the chemical reactions that occur in organisms.
More specifically, in this work, the researchers showed that when FAP is illuminated and absorbs a photon, an electron is stripped of fatty acids produced by algae in 300 picoseconds. The fatty acid is then dissociated into hydrocarbon precursors and carbon dioxide. Most of the carbon dioxide produced is then converted into bicarbonate in the enzyme within 100 nan seconds. This activity uses light, but does not prevent photosynthesis: the flavonoid molecules that absorb photons in FAP are bent. This configuration shifts the absorption spectrum of molecules to red, so it uses photons that are not used by microalgae photosynthesis activities.
It is the international consortium’s comprehensive interpretation of the results of various experiments and theoretical methods that have obtained detailed, atomic-scale images of the work of acid photodecarboxylase. This multidisciplinary study combines bioengineering, optical and vibration spectroscopy, static and dynamic crystallography with synchrotrons or X-ray free-electron lasers, and quantum chemical computation.
For more information, please refer to https://science.sciencemag.org/content/372/6538/eabd5687