Podcast: The first caffeine-'addicted' bacteria

June 11th, 2013
The latest episode in the American Chemical Society's (ACS') award-winning Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions podcast series describes bacteria that are "addicted" to caffeine in a way that promises practical uses ranging from decontamination of wastewater to bioproduction of medications for asthma.

Based on a report by Jeffrey Barrick, Ph.D., and colleagues in the journal ACS Synthetic Biology, the new podcast is available without charge at iTunes and from http://www.acs.org/globalchallenges.

Some people may joke about living on caffeine, but scientists now have genetically engineered E. coli bacteria to do that—literally.

Barrick and colleagues note that caffeine and related chemical compounds have become important water pollutants due to widespread use in coffee, soda pop, tea, energy drinks, chocolate and certain medications. These include prescription drugs for asthma and other lung diseases.

The scientists knew that a natural soil bacterium, Pseudomonas putida CBB5, can actually live solely on caffeine and could be used to clean up such environmental contamination. So they set out to transfer genetic gear for breaking down caffeine from P. putida into that old workhorse of biotechnology, E. coli, which is easy to handle and grow.

The study reports their success in doing so, as well as use of the E. coli for decaffeination and measuring the caffeine content of beverages. It describes development of a synthetic packet of genes for breaking down caffeine and related compounds that can be moved easily to other microbes. When engineered into certain E. coli, the result was bacteria literally addicted to caffeine.

The genetic packet could have applications beyond environmental remediation, the scientists say, citing potential use as a sensor to measure caffeine levels in beverages, in recovery of nutrient-rich byproducts of coffee processing and for the cost-effective bioproduction of medicines.

Provided by American Chemical Society

This Phys.org Science News Wire page contains a press release issued by an organization mentioned above and is provided to you “as is” with little or no review from Phys.Org staff.

More news stories

'Droneboarding' takes off in Latvia

Skirted on all sides by snow-clad pine forests, Latvia's remote Lake Ninieris would be the perfect picture of winter tranquility—were it not for the huge drone buzzing like a swarm of angry bees as it zooms above the solid ...

Singapore 2G switchoff highlights digital divide

When Singapore pulls the plug on its 2G mobile phone network this year, thousands of people could be stuck without a signal—digital have-nots left behind by the relentless march of technology.

Humans, not climate change, wiped out Australian megafauna

New evidence involving the ancient poop of some of the huge and astonishing creatures that once roamed Australia indicates the primary cause of their extinction around 45,000 years ago was likely a result of humans, not climate ...

Image: Wavemaker moon Daphnis

The wavemaker moon, Daphnis, is featured in this view, taken as NASA's Cassini spacecraft made one of its ring-grazing passes over the outer edges of Saturn's rings on Jan. 16, 2017. This is the closest view of the small ...