Research team creates new possibilities for medicine and materials sciences
Bacteria modifying the properties of cellulose
Cellulose produced by plants and bacteria is the most important material of biological origin on the planet. Acting as the main component in plant cell walls, cellulose gives plants their strength and flexibility. Wood, cotton and linen are made up almost exclusively of this material.
Now, the research team headed up by Prof. Dr. Regine Hengge, of the Humboldt-University of Berlin (HU) and her colleague, Prof. Dr. Lynette Cegelski, from Stanford University (California) has discovered that bacteria can not only produce cellulose, but can also chemically modify it using enzymes. The discovery of this process opens up entirely new prospects: in the fight against diseases, for example. Pathogens such as salmonella modify cellulose in order to bind onto biofilms. Through this mechanism, they can protect themselves from antibiotics and the immune system, and cause chronic infections.
Using targeted molecular design of enzymes, a diverse range of cellulose variants could be created in the future, with material properties that would have been completely inconceivable until now.
The detailed research results were published in the specialist journal, Science.
Thongsomboon, W., Serra, D.O Thongsomboon, W., Serra, D.O., Possling, A., Hadjineophytou, C., Hengge*, R., Cegelski,* L. (2018): Phosphoethanolamine cellulose: A naturally produced chemically modified cellulose. Science, 19 January 2018
*both of the final two authors cited are corresponding authors
Prof. Dr. Regine Hengge
Institute of Biology
Humboldt-Universität of Berlin
Tel.: 030 2093-49684