The team’s findings were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
Blanca Barquera, associate professor of biology, led the team (including research professor Joel Morgan and postdoctoral fellow Oscar Juarez) in studying Na+-NQR, an enzyme that is essentially two linked machines to create energy from food and electrically charge the cell membrane of Vibrio cholerae, powering many cellular functions.
Vibrio cholerae causes cholera, a disease transmitted primarily through contaminated drinking water. Cholera, which kills through dehydration caused by severe diarrhea and vomiting, is a major cause of death in the developing world, and in the aftermath of catastrophes that compromise water systems.
Their work stems from an interest in cellular respiration, whereby in what amounts to a controlled burn electrons are moved from food to oxygen. This process releases energy.
“Cellular respiration is remarkable,” Barquera said. “It is one of the most efficient energy conversion processes known, and does not require high temperatures. This efficiency has drawn the attention of researchers.”
In more complex organisms, like humans, the process of creating energy for a cell respiration takes place in specialized organelles within the cell called mitochondria. But in bacteria, which lack mitochondria, respiration occurs in the cell membrane. Na+-NQR is a respiratory enzyme found on the cell membrane of Vibrio Cholerae.
The enzyme creates energy through respiration and uses that energy to pump ions out of the cell, electrically charging the cell membrane and providing power for all the functions of the cell. Unlike similar enzymes found in many animals and bacteria, Na+-NQR pumps sodium ions out of the cell, rather than protons.
“It works in a very different way from enzymes in other bacteria and mitochondria. The catch and release of ions is done by movement of the protein,” Barquera said.
To read more, go to http://news.rpi.edu/update.do?artcenterkey=2755.
Send comments to:
Inside Rensselaer, Strategic Communications and External Relations
1000 Troy Building, 110 Eighth Street, Troy, N.Y. 12180 or to firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute | About RPI | Virtual Campus Tour | Academics | Research | Student Life | Admissions | News & Events|