Scientists Use Hypermutation to Develop Ethanol-Resistant Bacteria

Bacteria need mutations to survive under difficult circumstances. When necessary, they can even mutate at different speeds. This is shown in a recent study by the Centre of Microbial and Plant Genetics at KU Leuven. The findings open up various new avenues for research.

When under stress, bacteria start mutating to produce DNA variants for survival and reproduction. However, mutating is dangerous under normal circumstances, and finding the balance between too many and too few mutations is necessary. Losing this balance results in hypermutation, in which the cell mutates more quickly than normal, leading to death.

KU Leuven researchers examined its underlying mechanism in Escherichia coli. The team exposed E. coli to near-lethal concentrations of ethanol. This triggered hypermutation, which led to ethanol-resistant E. coli strains. The team was also surprised that the speed of hypermutation in the bacteria can be changed, as the bacteria mutate more quickly in higher concentrations of ethanol than when the ethanol stress is relieved.

Hypermutation made it possible to select E. coli mutants that are resistant to ethanol. This offers new perspectives for research on biofuel production.


This article is part of the Crop Biotech Update, a weekly summary of world developments in agri-biotech for developing countries, produced by the Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology, International Service for the Aquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications SEAsiaCenter (ISAAA)

Subscribe to Crop Biotech Update Newsletter
Crop Biotech Update Archive
Crop Biotech Update RSS
Biofuels Supplement RSS

Article Search: