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Decarboxylation enzymatic mechanisms of fatty acids into terminal olefins to obtain drop-in biofuels

Grant number: 20/01967-6
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Doctorate (Direct)
Effective date (Start): May 01, 2020
Effective date (End): March 14, 2021
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Biophysics - Molecular Biophysics
Principal Investigator:Leticia Maria Zanphorlin
Grantee:Natalia Milan
Host Institution: Centro Nacional de Pesquisa em Energia e Materiais (CNPEM). Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovações (Brasil). Campinas , SP, Brazil


Terminal alkenes (or olefins) constitute an industrially important chemical platform to produce polymers, fertilizers, lubricants, surfactants and especially drop-in biofuels, as they are functionally like molecules of fossil origin. Currently, alkenes are produced by chemical conversion, that is, cracking under high temperature and pressure conditions, using petroleum-based raw material. Some microorganisms recently discovered, especially the bacteria of the genera Jeotgalicoccus and Pseudomonas are known to produce alkenes naturally, since their genomes have the enzymes CYP152 (belonging to the superfamily P450) and UndA, respectively, which are capable of decarboxylating fatty acids producing 1-alkenes, which could act as a biological substitute route for oil. While the enzyme CYP152 is a heme-iron-dependent decarboxylase/peroxygenase and has a long chain fatty acid substrate, specificity between C12-C22, the enzyme UndA, is a non-heme-iron-dependent decarboxylase/oxidase, which has a preference for medium C8-C14 chains, suggesting different mechanisms of action for decarboxylation. Few CYP152 enzymes that have decarboxylation activity have been discovered and only one has an elucidated tertiary structure. In the case of UndA decarboxylases, it is known that it is an extremely conserved enzyme in the genus Pseudomonas and homologues in the genus Burkholderia have also been identified, however, only one structure with different ligands has been determined. Therefore, knowledge about the molecular mechanisms of these decarboxylases is still very scarce, mainly due to the absence of structural information. In order to discover new decarboxylases of the type CYP152 and UndA, our research group carried out a microbial consortium in the presence of different sources of fatty acids. Interestingly, genomic sequencing revealed that bacteria of the genera Rhizobium and Variovorax, never related to the production of alkenes, have in their genomes two different copies of CYP152 and one of UndA, respectively. Therefore, this doctoral project aims at the molecular study of these enzymes through a multidisciplinary approach that involves biochemical and biophysical tools. Through this project, we intend to elucidate which mechanisms are used by the decarboxylases belonging to the Rhizobium and Variovorax bacteria to produce alkenes as well as the specificity of each enzyme against different sizes of fatty acid. Finally, this project has an enormous potential to contribute to the development of biological routes to produce drop-in biofuels and other bio-compounds derived from terminal alkenes. (AU)

Articles published in Pesquisa para Inovação FAPESP about the scholarships:
Novel enzyme could boost sustainable production of aviation fuel 
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Scientific publications
(References retrieved automatically from Web of Science and SciELO through information on FAPESP grants and their corresponding numbers as mentioned in the publications by the authors)
RADE, LETICIA L.; GENEROSO, WESLEY C.; DAS, SUMAN; SOUZA, AMANDA S.; SILVEIRA, RODRIGO L.; AVILA, MAYARA C.; VIEIRA, PLINIO S.; MIYAMOTO, RENAN Y.; LIMA, ANA B. B.; ARICETTI, JULIANA A.; et al. Dimer-assisted mechanism of (un)saturated fatty acid decarboxylation for alkene production. PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, v. 120, n. 22, p. 10-pg., . (19/12599-0, 19/08855-1, 20/01967-6, 18/04897-9)

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