Advanced X-ray techniques yield insights into a bacterial enzyme that turns methane gas into liquid fuel
Scientists have determined the structure of a unique enzyme, produced by a species of methane-eating bacteria, that converts the greenhouse gas into methanol – a highly versatile liquid fuel and industrial product ingredient.
Their new study, published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, is the first to report the structure of the enzyme, called soluble methane monooxygenase (sMMO), at room temperature in both its reduced and oxidized forms. This detailed structural information will help researchers design efficient catalysts for industrial methane to methanol conversion processes.
“We were able to reveal the structure of sMMO and see how the environment of the two iron atoms in the enzyme’s active site changes and supports the catalysis of this challenging chemical reaction,” said author Jan Kern, a Berkeley Lab bioscientist.
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